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Mr. Carey is pictured with (L/R) his sons Michael and Martin, and his daughter Sheila. Absent from photo are Robert’s wife, Mrs. Mary Carey, and his daughter Liz.

A ‘beyond outstanding’ lifelong contribution to the Irish co-operative movement by Robert Carey (Inishowen Co-operative) has been recognised nationally with the co-operative industry’s highest national honour – The Plunkett Award for Co-operative Endeavour, named after Sir Horace Plunkett, founder of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society.

The award was presented by Charlie McConalogue, T.D., Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine. Mr. Carey, from Moville, Co. Donegal, received the honour in a socially distanced ceremony, marking a lifetime’s contribution to the Co-operative movement and to his local Inishowen Co-operative, where in 1958 he and other visionary leaders set-up the Inishowen Co-operative Livestock Mart.  

Minister McConalogue said, “I congratulate Robert Carey on being awarded the 32nd Plunkett Award for Co-operative Endeavour. Robert is a giant of the co-operative movement and has been a giant of the Inishowen Co-op movement for decades. He is a truly worthy recipient of the Plunkett Award.

Mr. Carey is pictured receiving his award from the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Charlie McConalogue, T.D.

“Having visited the co-op in Inishowen since I was a child, I know the legacy Robert has created and the fantastic business that is now operating as a result of Robert’s vision and foresight. The co-operative movement has served our agriculture and rural communities so well over the past 127 years. They have stood the test of time and, I believe, that co-ops are a real selling point for our sector in terms of our international marketing of quality Irish foods.”

Robert held the position of Chairman on two occasions, serving as a Board Member for 46 years and volunteer, shareholder and long standing customer of the co-operative since 1958. Despite his retirement from the board of directors in 2004 he has continued to play an important and supportive role as a trusted adviser within the co-operative structure and as one of the few surviving founding members.

ICOS President Jerry Long said, “Robert is a champion of co-operation, locally, regionally and nationally, where he has contributed with an unwavering commitment to the business of co-operative farming in Ireland for the mutual benefit and prosperity of rural communities. He is justifiably respected for his knowledge and integrity and it is an honour for us to recognise him and his many years of hard work and dedication by presenting him with this prestigious national award.”

In his period as a leader within Inishowen Co-operative, Robert Carey oversaw substantial developments including the establishment of the Inishowen Co-operative Agricultural Society Ltd. (1963), the expansion of mart facilities (1967), the establishment of a feed mill through a joint-venture with Clonleigh Co-operative (1968), the establishment of a Pig Co-operative (1972), the amalgamation of the Mart, Stores and Piggery Co-ops (1975), the integration of the Moville Co-operative (1982) and the integration of the Buncrana Co-operative (1987). 

Throughout his long involvement with the Co-operative movement Robert has given freely of his time to Inishowen Co-operative and to the Inishowen community. In addition to his role in the co-operative, he also served as IFA County Donegal Chairman from 1984-1987. He was appointed to the Western Development Commission in 1994 and he served on the Board of Inishowen Rural Development Co-operative, promoting farming development in Inishowen at every opportunity. He also served as Chairman of Inishowen Agricultural Show.  

Mr. Carey continues to give of his time in support of the current management and board of the Society, with his wisdom and experience frequently called upon.  Despite advancing years, he attends all AGMs and stimulates challenging debate on current performance as well as encouraging the creation of an exciting vision of the future that improves the lives of farmers, members and the wider community – economically and socially. 

Robert Carey is pictured centre with L/R John Roddy, Board Member; Charlie Doherty, Chairman, of Inishowen Co-operative; T.J. Flanagan, Chief Executive, ICOS and Charlie McConalogue, T.D., Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine

In 2013, when Inishowen Co-operative launched a book to commemorate its 50th anniversary, Mr. Carey provided much of the material and commentary, demonstrating the proud role of Inishowen within the national Co-operative movement. He remains a staunch supporter and promoter of co-operative principles and continues to provide important grounding context for decision-making when needed.

ICOS CEO, T.J. Flanagan said, “The tireless efforts made by people of the calibre of Robert Carey, for no personal gain, provide a testament to what is great in the co-operative movement. When Robert, along with others, founded the co-operative in Inishowen, that part of Donegal, along with the rest of the country were very economically depressed, with widespread poverty and emigration. Despite enormous adversity, Robert, and people like him, persisted, brought the community together, raised funds, and built a community based business that Inishowen and North Donegal can be very proud of. Robert’s work can be an example to succeeding generations, who now need to take up the mantle to continue to support and to build Inishowen and other co-operatives, for the benefit of the community and the nation.”