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Bust of ICOS founder Sir Horace Plunkett
Bust of ICOS founder Sir Horace Plunkett

Our History

The influence of the founding ICOS members can still be seen today

  • The seeds for the Credit Union movement in Ireland were sown within ICOS by Fr Tom Finlay. Based on the Raiffeisen system, Ireland’s First Co-operative Agricultural Credit Society was set up in Co. Cork in November 1894.
  • Sir Horace Plunkett helped establish the forerunner to today’s Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food in Ireland. The Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland (DATI) was formed in 1899.
  • With the advice and financial support of ICOS the Society of the United Irishwomen was formed in 1910. In 1935 the Society of the United Irishwomen changed its name to the Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA).
  • Evolving from their small co-operative beginnings in Ireland, multi-billion euro companies like Aryzta AG, Glanbia, Ornua and Kerry Group have established a global market present.
  • Marketed through the Ornua and available in over 50 countries around the globe, the ‘Kerrygold’ brand is Ireland’s only truly internationally-known food brand.
  • Much of the cream for the world’s no. 1 cream liqueur, Baileys Irish Cream, is taken from ICOS co-operative member farms.

Sir Horace Plunkett

Timeline of Sire Horace Plunkett’s life.

Sir Horace Plunkett

  • 1439 – The title Baron of Dunsany or, more commonly, Lord Dunsany, one of oldest dignities in the Peerage of Ireland was granted.
  • 1854 – Horace Curzon Plunkett, our founding President and one of the pioneers of the co-operative movement and shining lights of Irish agriculture was born in Co. Meath, the third son of the 16th Lord Dunsany.
  • 1879 – Following his education at Eton and Oxford, Plunkett moved to the USA and spent ten years ranching in Wyoming.
  • 1889 – Even though Plunkett was not involved in setting up first creamery co-op in Ireland in Drumcollagher in 1889, he was successful in starting the second in Ballyhahill in 1891.
  • 1894 – Adopting the Danish Co-operative Model, Sir Horace Plunkett the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society Ltd. (later renamed Irish Co-operative Organisation Society Limited (ICOS)), was formed by Sir. Horace Plunkett and his friends.
  • 1897 – Plunkett set up the Irish Agricultural Wholesale Society (IAWS) for the supply of inputs and supplies to co-ops. This company has today evolved into the international company known as Aryzta AG.
  • 1899 – Founding Vice President of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland. Can claim to be the oldest department in the Irish Republic, having preceded the Irish Government structure.
  • 1909 – In his last public letter as President of the United States, President Theodore Roosevelt, gave thanks to Sir Horace Plunkett for his great services to the organisation of agriculture in the United States. Roosevelt, credits Sir. Horace Plunkett with helping formulate agricultural policy in the USA. In fact, Roosevelt adopted Plunkett’s slogan of “Better farming, better business, better living” for his conservation and agricultural policy.
  • 1914 – The co-op movement spread throughout Ireland and by 1914 there were over 800 co-ops in the country.
  • 1919 – Started the Plunkett Foundation in Ireland and England. The Plunkett Foundation continued to promote and develop agricultural co-operatives and rural community enterprise, with the slogan “Better Farming, Better Business, Better Living”. Over the years it too has evolved. Its work today focuses on the development of co-operatives in the areas of Rural Community Enterprises, Community Shops, Co-operative Pubs, and Community Food Enterprises.
  • 1924 – In in conjunction with the Empire Exhibition at Wembley in north London the Plunkett Foundation organised the first global conference of agricultural co-operatives.
  • 1932 – Sir Horace spent the last years of his life in England and died there in 1932 at the age of 78.

In 1889, Ireland’s first co-operatives were established in Doneraile, Co. Cork and the first co-operative creamery was opened in Dromcollogher, Co. Limerick.

Adopting the Danish co-operative model, the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society Ltd. (later renamed the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society Limited - ICOS), was formed in 1894 by Sir Horace Plunkett and his friends.

On the recommendation of the poet and playwright W.B Yeats, one of the first ICOS employees was the poet, painter, mystic and practical economist, George William Russell, otherwise known as Æ.