President to join 200 leaders for co-operative enterprise conference

President Michael D Higgins is to join with over 200 Irish industry and public sector leaders to mark the UN International Year of Co-operatives at a national conference in Croke Park on Tuesday, May 15.

The conference will address the role which co-ops can play in harnessing the global growth opportunities for the agri-food sector.

Some of the key participating groups include National Association of Building Co-operatives (NABCo), Irish League of Credit Unions, and the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS).

ICOS chief executive Seamus O’Donohoe said: “Ireland has a long and proud tradition of co-operative enterprise. As a sector, we must share and widely promote the key attributes that have contributed to the success of co-operative enterprises in Ireland. Moreover, we must grasp this occasion to further advance and strengthen the business of co-operation for the future.”

Among the dignitaries attending the conference will be 200 Irish industry and public sector leaders along with Research & Innovation Minister Seán Sherlock, and president of the International Co-operative Alliance Dame Pauline Green.

The conference will be chaired by economist David McWilliams. It will address the way forward for co-operative enterprise and will identify how co-operative developments can contribute to the renewal and recovery of the economy. It will also discuss the growth of indigenous enterprises; sustainable job creation on a regional and national basis; and the overall future competitive- ness of Ireland.

NABCo chairman Declan Hudson added: “Co-operative enterprise has a vital role to play in Ireland’s social and economic renewal. This event provides the opportunity to recognise and support the contribution that co-operatives make through local democratic control of social and commercial enterprise to strengthening the communities in which they are based.”

Irish League of Credit Unions chief executive Kieron Brennan said: “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 well-being across Ireland for the future. We look forward to playing our part in promoting this agenda.”

International experts who will address the conference include Peter Couchman, (chief executive of the Plunkett Foundation in Oxford), David Rodgers (involved in supporting British co-operatives and president of the Swiss-based ICA Housing) and Prof Gert van Dijk (co-operative expert from the Netherlands and former President of COGECA — representing European agricultural and fishing co-ops).

ICOS represents co-ops with €12bn in turnover, with some 150,000 individual members, employing 12,000 people in Ireland, and 24,000 personnel overseas.

NABCo has supported locally-owned and managed societies across Ireland to meet their own housing needs since 1973.

ILCU has around 500 credit unions and more than three million members on the island of Ireland.


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