Irish Distillers - the makers of Jameson Whiskey and part of global drinks group Pernod Ricard - is branching out into hand sanitising gel.

The company is going to supply the gel for free to the Health Service Executive, in partnership with Cork firm Mervue Laboratories.

Irish Distillers said it will use its expertise to help the national response to Covid-19. 

Rosemary Garth of Irish Distillers said the supply of hand sanitisers is scarce during this coronavirus pandemic including "crucially for those who need it most." 

Ms Garth said the company, as a producer of alcohol, decided to get to work to see what was needed to make the gel plan happen - and on a large scale.  

She said the company contacted the Department of Health and the HSE earlier this week and the gel plan then went into operation very quickly.  

"We are going to be making our alcohol available at no cost. Mervue Labs will be producing just to cover their costs," Ms Garth said. 

"This will enable us to deliver large scale quantities of hand sanitiser to hospitals and health care professionals, that need it not only now but in the times ahead," she said.

She described it as a "fantastic solution based approach" and said the move will not impact the company's production of whiskey. 

Responding to the impact of Covid-19 on the economy, she said every business is facing challenges and they are not immune to what is going on.  

"We stand committed to the people and communities of Ireland during this difficult time and we will continue to collaborate with the health authorities so as to ensure our efforts are channelled to greatest effect," Irish Distillers said. 

"We are committed to maintaining supply to the maximum levels possible for as long as possible," it added.

"Like so many, Irish Distillers is doing what we can at a time of great national crisis. We hope that in doing so, it helps our healthcare professionals in their efforts to protect all of us from the spread of the virus," the company concluded.