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You've got to hand it to Bronagh, fighting virus germs with gin

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Bronagh Conlon and her gin hand sanitiser

Bronagh Conlon and her gin hand sanitiser

Bronagh Conlon and her gin hand sanitiser

A gin distillery has started making hand sanitiser and is working on a product for cleaning surfaces in GPs' surgeries.

Bronagh Conlon, managing director of Listoke Distillery and Gin School in Co Louth, is also a nurse, midwife and a breast cancer survivor.

"So much of me is concerned about what's happening with the coronavirus, plus I'm also high risk," she said.

Bronagh, who made the decision to make sanitiser and sell it at no profit to help people during the health crisis, acknowledged it has been a tough 12 months for the business.

"Between Brexit and now this, our own sales have gone down quite a lot," she said.

The gin school "has been an absolute saviour, but we're closing it for the next number of weeks".

Bronagh originally made some hand sanitiser for herself and a couple of people she was with on a food circle trip with Boyne Valley Flav-ours last Thursday.

Duty

On Friday she realised how many people were trying to source sanitiser.

"A few people came back to me and said, 'Can I get some? I'm going to visit my mum and want it for her'."

She spoke to the Revenue Commissioners and was told she could sell it without duty "because it is being used for hand washing".

For me it was very important because I couldn't have afforded to do it otherwise," Bronagh said.

"As a business owner I can't afford to take my product and give it away without having to cover duty, so what I have got is an exemption on the duty from Revenue which, I have to say, they get 20 out of 10 for that.

"That's exceptional and it's exceptional circumstances. We're keeping a record of what we have, what we're doing with it, getting it out there. The bottom line is we can do it and I think we should do it."

Production started on Saturday morning and "1,300 bottles, each 250ml, went out that day".

Bronagh added: "We've been talking to pharmacists and our own GP who said they can't get their hands on any hand sanitiser, so we said we can make it."

The sanitiser is made with grain neutral spirit, juniper, which has medicinal properties, and citrus which gives it a softness. It also has natural aloe vera.

Bronagh said that if you have more than 60pc proof alcohol on your hands "it will kill the virus. It does need to be 70pc proof for surfaces, so we're looking at doing some at 70pc for GP practices and nursing homes".

Bottles of the sanitiser have been donated to charities and organisations supporting the vulnerable.

Bronagh has been taken aback by the demand.

"I hadn't even thought for a single second this was going to happen," she said.

"I had no concept of how it was going to blow up. I knew there were people looking for sanitisers, but I had no idea it was as bad as it is."

Dean Byrne, who came from Slane, Co Meath, to get four bottles, said: "Three are for my parents who are in their 80s. It's disgusting about the panic buying because the elderly get left behind."

Bronagh echoes the expert advice that "if you still wash your hands for two 'Happy Birthdays to you' for 20 seconds, it is still the best way to go".