Leprechaun Breeding Programme On Track, says Minister

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar today announced that his ambitious Leprechaun breeding programme is running on schedule. The first leprechauns are expected to be released into the wild in early spring 2013 as part of The Foraging Ireland tourism initiative.

Varadkar was speaking at a press conference in the Smurfit School of Genetics, Trinity College Dublin, where the breeding programme is being carried out. The initiative, named Tuath Nua after the Tuatha dé Danann, was set up in early 2012 to fulfill a Fine Gael general election promise to "develop Ireland's potential as a tourist destination". Minister Varadkar explains the initiative as follows:

"Tourists come to Ireland expecting to see leprechauns but unfortunately the population of leprechauns in the wild has declined to such an extent that the last confirmed sighting of one was almost five years ago. To this end, we have put in place a programme that will create leprechauns, through genetic engineering, to replenish the natural population. We hope that this initiative will encourage overseas visitors to come to Ireland for a more authentic Irish experience. After the success of the National Leprechaun Museum this was the next logical step."

Today's press conference also marked the first time that journalists have been granted access to the secure genetic engineering facility at Trinity College. The head of the programme, Japanese Professor Ken Tekajoke, was on hand to explain the breeding process:

"We were unable to retrieve authentic leprechaun DNA due to the decline of the wild population so the first step was to collate the correct genetic material for building Leprechaun DNA. We did this by collecting DNA from hundreds of donors that matched some or all of the relevant characteristics: Small in stature, Irish, cunning, red haired, elusive, cute hoor etc. Once we had collected enough donor samples we were able to splice together the desired genetic elements to create the Leprechaun DNA. From there the process is identical to the creation of a test tube baby."

The identities of the donors are being kept secret but Prof. Tekajoke did release doctored photographs that explain the desired characteristics but protect the donors' anonymity. The first leprechauns are expected to be released in March 2013, as part of the St. Patrick's Festival.