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New Law for Co-ops Welcomed

Monday, 14th July 2014 – ICOS welcomes the passing of the Report and Final Stages of the Friendly Societies and Industrial and Provident Societies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013 which is expected to be signed into Law this week by the President of Ireland.

ICOS – the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society represents co-operatives and organisations in Ireland – including the Irish dairy processing co-operatives and livestock marts – whose associated businesses have a combined turnover in the region of € 14 billion, with some 150,000 individual members, employing 12,000 people in Ireland, and a further 24,000 people overseas.

ICOS welcomes some of the key changes enacted in the Bill.  These include:

  • providing for the removal of limits on individual shareholdings
  • increasing the amount that a society may raise in funds without the written permission of the Registrar of Friendly Societies
  • providing for appeals against a decision of the Registrar to be made to the Circuit Court rather than the High Court as at present
  • allowing greater flexibility to societies regarding their financial year for the purpose of submission of annual returns
  • providing for the application of the existing law on examinership (as applied by the Companies Acts) to industrial & provident societies, which at present cannot avail of the examinership process

Most of these changes will be enacted shortly (except for the Examinership provision which will be enacted when the appropriate Court Rules are in place).

The Bill follows the introduction of a Statutory Instrument in late 2012, reducing the fees charged by the Registrar of Friendly Societies to co-operative societies to levels comparable with  companies.

The forthcoming new Act represents a welcome but modest response on the part of Government to the commitment made in the Programme for Government regarding co-operatives.

This stated that the Government would “work to promote a greater appreciation of the co-operative model as a distinct form of organisation, ensure a level playing field between co-operatives and the other legal options for structuring enterprise activities, and provide a conducive framework for the full potential of the co-operative model to be realised”.  

Now that the work on the consolidation of the Companies Bill is virtually complete, the next stage in this process must involve a complete overhaul of Industrial and Provident Societies legislation.  This Interim Bill is aimed primarily at easing the regulatory burden on co-operative societies and making it easier to start up and run a co-operative as an alternative form of enterprise organisation.


Tim Kinsella, MKC Communications, 086 813 7512