IRISH CO-OP MOVEMENT’S MOST PRESTIGIOUS HONOUR AWARDED TO FORESTRY AND SOCCER STALWART – RAY GALLAGHER
Co-operative promoter of Sligo Rovers and Western Forestry receives 2012 Plunkett Award
DUBLIN 4.00 pm Thursday 20th December 2012 – The lifelong personal contribution to the business of co-operation by Ray Gallagher, a former ICOS development officer and promoter of co-operation in forestry, dairying and football, has been recognised nationally by the Irish co-operative movement with their highest honour – the Plunkett Award for Co-operative Endeavour.
Mr. Gallagher received the award from the President of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS), Bertie O’Leary at a reception in The Plunkett House in Dublin. The award also marks the conclusion in Ireland of the UN International Year of Co-operatives (2012). He was nominated for the award by the Connacht Gold Co-operative where he is a shareholding member.
A native of Achonry, Co. Sligo, Gallagher was born into a large farming family in the 1930s. From an early age he appreciated the benefits that the co-operative movement brought to rural areas in terms of income and employment opportunities for farming families. He qualified as an agricultural adviser in 1961, subsequently obtaining a Master’s Degree and joining ICOS in 1978.
In 1980, along with the late Jim Joyce of ICOS, he was instrumental in persuading then EU Commissioner Ray McSharry to introduce a grant aid programme to support farmer afforestation under the then ‘Western Package’. In his career, he became a widely respected promoter and adviser of co-operatives throughout the wider north-western region, culminating in the establishment of the highly successful Western Forestry Co-operative in 1985. He was a frequent attendee and adviser at board meetings of North Connacht Farmers’ Co-operative and is still today an active and very highly regarded member of Connacht Gold.
For 30 years, Ray Gallagher has been intimately involved with the development and survival of Sligo Rovers Football Club, serving on the Clubs Committee of Management; and becoming Sligo Rovers long standing representative on the Council of the FAI. He retired in 2011 from the FAI audit and finance sub committees and this year retired from his post as Club Licensing Officer.
Perhaps his greatest legacy in the football sphere was to persuade Sligo Rovers supporters on the merits of forming a Trust to purchase the Showgrounds – the 12 acre home of the Club in the centre of Sligo, in 1968.
He then promoted the formation of a co-operative when the club was subsequently faced with severe financial difficulties.
In 1988 the club was taken over by the community and registered as a co-operative under the name Sligo Football and Sports Development Society Ltd and began trading as Sligo Rovers.
Thereafter, in extremely difficult circumstances Gallagher has been instrumental in ensuring a professional soccer team has flourished in Sligo and for the past 10 years has driven an extensive capital project to upgrade the playing surface, to build new stand facilities and a state of the art all weather pitch.
The full community benefits from an active involvement in league soccer in many other ways including youth teams, with dedicated facilities available for community use. Ray served on the Committee of Management of the Society from 1988 to 2012 and as an officer, first as Vice–Chairman of Sligo Rovers and subsequently as Chairman from 1994 to 1999.
Since becoming a co-operative, the Club has won FAI cup honours in 2010 and again in 2011 and has followed those successes with further success in winning the Airtricity League this year. The success of the co-operative model, initiated by Ray Gallagher at Sligo Rovers, subsequently saw other clubs such as Finn Harps, Dundalk FC and Cork City respectively all use the co-operative model to create ownership structures permitting club supporters to be directly involved in the ownership and management of these clubs.
Speaking at the Award ceremony, Bertie O’Leary, President of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) said; “Ray Gallagher’s exceptional personal contribution and generosity of spirit are recognised by this prestigious award named after Plunkett, the founder of the Irish co-operative movement. In his lifetime of co-operative endeavour to date, Ray Gallagher has contributed selflessly to the co-operative movement, to the advancement of Irish agriculture, to the enhancement of community life through soccer and the betterment of Irish society in general. He is exemplary of the spirit that Ireland needs to create a better future and he is a worthy recipient of this prestigious award.
ICOS affiliated organisations in Ireland have a combined turnover in excess of €12 billion and over 150,000 individual members. There are some 1,000 co-ops in Ireland, and the largest 100 organisations employ approximately 40,000 people. Irish agricultural exports contribute over €9 billion to the Irish economy each year and the sector accounts for 8% of national employment.
Media Information: Tim Kinsella 086 813 7512.
Editor’s Note: The Plunkett Award is the premier honorary award made by ICOS annually. It is presented to one individual each year who is regarded as having made an outstanding lifelong contribution to the co-operative movement in Ireland.
21 Nov 2023