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2012 has been declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Co-operatives which was today welcomed in Irelandby ICOS, the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society.




“Since the foundation of the Irish co-operative movement by Sir Horace Plunkett in 1894, Ireland has developed a long and proud tradition of co-operative enterprise,” said Pat McLoughlin, President of ICOS.  “Undoubtedly, Ireland is a better place today for the leadership, courage and endeavours of the early Irish co-operators.”




Today, ICOS represents co-operatives whose associated businesses have a combined turnover in the region of €12 billion, with some 150,000 individual members, employing 12,000 people in Ireland, and a further 24,000 people overseas.




“In as much as 2012 offers us the opportunity to embrace a proud past, as a sector we must also share and widely promote the key attributes that have contributed to the success of co-operatives enterprises in Ireland.  Moreover, we must grasp this occasion to further advance and strengthen the business of co-operation for the future.”



“Plunkett’s vision and pioneering approach towards the issues of his generation helped to lift rural Ireland out of economic poverty and exploitation.  In many ways, the challenges that Ireland faced in his times are replicated today in the most unprecedented economic downturn that we are currently experiencing.  Co-operative businesses therefore have a continuing vital role to play in Ireland’s economic recovery and renewal for the future,” said Pat McLoughlin.




ICOS Chief Executive Tom O’Callaghan said, “ICOS is continuing to advance the development of its organisation in the interests of all member co-operatives and their constituents.  At the same time, 2012 also provides the opportunity to recognise and support the role that co-operatives play in strengthening and supporting the economic and social fabric of their local communities.




“In the current year,  ICOS will continue its co-operative leadership, training and education programmes and will also encourage new membership.  We will actively highlight the future potential of the co-operative movement to policy makers, rather than dwell on our past.  At a European level we will continue to enhance the importance of our Brussels office and European based personnel in the interests of our member organisations.”




ICOS is also strengthening the services it provides to the co-operative industry sector having re-aligned the business around a number of core economic areas including Multipurpose Dairy Co-operatives;  Livestock related Co-ops; Service related Co-ops;  Community, Culture & Leisure Co-ops; Food & Fishing Co-ops; Store & Trade Co-ops and Advisory & Education Co-ops




ICOS intends to target a range of initiatives including the encouragement of new co-operatives over the coming year.  With experienced staff and resources the organisation has a wealth of governance and business experience, technical expertise, lobbying and representative strength, and an extensive network through which to promote the development, funding and expansion of co-operative enterprise in Ireland.




“2012 provides the opportunity for all co-operatives to actively highlight to their members, customers and their communities at large the essential role that co-ops have to play in stimulating economic growth and societal wellbeing across Ireland for the future,” said O’Callaghan.




“This includes opportunities for expansion and growth by co-operatives that are market focussed, well governed and strategic in their business development ambitions.  ICOS will continue to promote and pursue all such opportunities working closely with its members and serving the best interests of the co-operative enterprise sector for the future.”




United Nations International Year of Co-operatives 2012




Co-operatives demonstrate that it is possible to pursue economic viability,  prosperity and social responsibility as mutual priorities.  Co-operatives are business enterprises owned and controlled by the members that they serve. Their member-driven nature is one of the most clearly differentiating factors of co-operative enterprises. This means that decisions made in co-operatives are balanced by the pursuit of profit, and the needs and interests of members and their communities.  Co-operatives take many forms and operate in all sectors of society. Most share a unique set of principles which keep them attuned with their member-driven ethos.




International years are declared by the United Nations to draw attention to and encourage action on major issues. The International Year of Co-operatives is intended to raise public awareness of the invaluable contributions of cooperative enterprises to poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. The Year will also highlight the strengths of the co-operative business model as an alternative means of doing business and furthering socioeconomic development.