Coronavirus: Irishman sets up company for mask production in Sligo

‘Restarting Ireland is one thing but restarting Ireland safely is another’

Neil Sands: The idea is that wearing a mask protects those around us.

An Irish businessman is working towards setting up a mask production factory in Co Sligo in a move to restart Ireland after the coronavirus pandemic and reduce future personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages.

Neil Sands, with the help of his brother Kevin, has started a company called which intends to produce masks domestically and reduce the country's reliance on importing the product.

The pair have sourced machines to produce the equipment in China and Germany and hope to be up and running in around two weeks' time, providing medical-grade masks for "as close to cost as possible".

“My co-founder and I, my younger brother Kevin, have been looking at various means in which we can ramp up domestic production. There are two main pillars to that. The first is being able to get our hands on the machines themselves that will provide a sufficient outcome so that we can make an impact on the restart effort,” Mr Sands said.


“The second is on raw materials, which are becoming increasingly difficult to acquire. We’ve been looking at the options for domestic supply and how other small, Irish companies might be able to step forward and create what’s called meltblown material to make masks.”

Mr Sands said he has a machine confirmed in Germany and three in China, but that shipping costs are problematic.

“We have high hopes that the German machine will be on the island in the next 10 days and will be ready for output,” he added.

The idea arose after the businessman, who was also behind the Answer Ireland’s Call Initiative, noticed that international papers on restarting societies focused greatly on the importance of mask wearing.

“The consensus is, certainly scientifically now, that masks are a huge help in terms of transmission of Covid-19,” he said. “To say that we are self-sufficient in Ireland for masks in the near future, is a very, very long stretch. It became clear to me that restarting Ireland is one thing but restarting Ireland safely is another.”

He said that Ireland only has one other mask production facility in the southwest of the country and that more are needed to meet the demands of the country post-pandemic.

The business model, he said, is “based on soundness”.

“So we say that my mask is for you. The idea is that wearing a mask protects those around us. The word measc, comes from the Irish word meas, which means respect.”

Mr Sands said they were “not 100 per cent clear on pricing yet” because the cost of raw materials can vary so much, but that they intend to deliver the product at cost price.

While the masks would be available in shops and online, Mr Sands also intends to introduce a subscription service, in which people would get five masks delivered to their homes per week.

The building in which they are working from was gifted to them by Arrotek, a medical device company in Sligo, and Mr Sands said he would "welcome a partnership with anybody else, whether that's government or corporate".

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times