Four sixth class students from a Louth national school presented An Taoiseach with a prize-winning Christmas tree on Friday, 4th December, following their win in the first-ever national ‘Love A Real Tree’ essay-writing competition.
The four award-winning students, from St. Joseph’s Mell National School in Drogheda, Co. Louth, as part of their prize, joined champion grower James O’Toole from Co. Wicklow and Mike Neary of Bord Bia in presenting the ‘2015 Supreme Champion’ Christmas tree to An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny T.D. at Government Buildings today.
James O’Toole was recently crowned winner of ‘Ireland’s Best Christmas Tree’ for 2015 and grew this year’s ‘Supreme Champion’ Christmas tree, which is over two metres tall and eight years old, on his plantation, Fairwood Christmas Trees, in Carnew, Co. Wicklow.
The four sixth class students; Luka Juraityte (11), Best Akin (11), Antonio Ofodile (12) and Patrick Keane (11) won top prize in the ‘Love A Real Tree’ essay-writing competition for their collaborative essay, ‘All I Want For Christmas Is A Real Irish Christmas Tree’.
Speaking at the presentation, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D. said: “I’d like to congratulate these four young students who have worked so well together to write their prizewinning essay; showcasing their talents and abilities as well as the key support from both their school and their families. The students wrote so passionately about the importance of a real tree at Christmas and I’m therefore delighted to receive this real Christmas tree, grown in Co. Wicklow. The Irish Christmas tree industry is a significant one, worth €21 million to the Irish economy and, as an indigenous industry, is providing local jobs to local people.”
More than 1,000 fifth and sixth class students from over 40 schools participated in the competition, which was organised by the Irish Christmas Tree Growers Association (ICTGA), as part of their ‘Love A Real Tree’ campaign to encourage families to consider a real Irish-grown Christmas tree this year.
Speaking about the ‘Love A Real Tree’ essay competition, Joe Flynn of the Irish Christmas Tree Growers Association said: “We were truly overwhelmed by the standard of writing and creativity we received from students all over the country. The winning essay, however, stood out as it emphasised how, with the real Irish Christmas tree at the heart, Christmas is a shared experience with family, relations and school friends.”
He added: “Today is just the icing on the cake, with the four winning students coming to Dublin to present the Supreme Champion tree, grown in Wicklow by James O’Toole, to An Taoiseach.”
Mike Neary, Manager of Horticulture, Bord Bia took the opportunity to remind people of the importance of buying a real tree, “The look, the scent and the very feel of a real tree are all part of the Christmas tradition! Growing the perfect tree takes more than planting a tree and hoping for the best. It takes seven to ten years to produce a 2 metre tall tree, and this means year round care for the life of the tree by growers to produce the best tree possible. When you buy a real Christmas tree, carefully grown and cultured locally, there is that extra special knowledge that you are supporting nature and the environment.”
The ‘Love A Real Tree’ essay competition is a national competition, with fifth and sixth class students writing a discussion-type essay entitled “All I Want for Christmas Is A Real Irish Christmas Tree’. As well as the winning students receiving prizes, every participating school across the country will receive a Christmas tree seedling in Spring 2016, with planting and after-care instructions.
There are currently over 5,000 acres of Christmas trees planted in Ireland, with an estimated 550,000 trees expected to be harvested and sold this year. The most popular tree varieties in Ireland are the Nordmann Fir and the Noble Fir.
The total value to the Irish economy is estimated to be €21million with exports to the UK, Holland, Belgium, France and Germany worth an estimated €6million of that.