Plunkett, who has been compared to great Irish leaders, Daniel O’Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, Michael Davitt, and, more recently, Sean Lemass, is the subject of A Life of Sir Horace Plunkett: Visionary and Pioneer, by Maurice Colbert.
The book was launched at Plunkett House, in Dublin, the headquarters of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society. ICOS president, Pat McLoughlin, said Sir Horace Plunkett was instrumental in shaping the Irish agricultural sector. His pioneering vision and work were central to the development of the co-operative movement. The continued success of that movement is testament to Plunkett’s strength of intellect and great leadership qualities.
McLoughlin said Plunkett’s legacy was vast, and included the establishment of hugely important public bodies and businesses. These include the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society (IAOS, now ICOS), the Irish Agricultural Wholesale Society (IAWS), the Irish Country Women’s Association (ICA), and the Department of Agriculture.
“His influence was also international, where iconic figures, such as Theodore Roosevelt, also lauded Plunkett’s thinking,” he said.
The book details the historic roots of the Plunketts of Meath, and traces Plunkett’s formative years, through his time spent ranching in the United States in the 1880s, where he first dreamt of organising co-operatives in Ireland. His story then moves to Ireland, his organisation of the IAOS, and the development of Ireland’s co-operatives, and his important role in the establishment of the Department of Agriculture in 1899.
McLoughlin said Plunkett’s vision and pioneering approach towards the problems of his generation helped to lift rural Ireland out of economic poverty and exploitation.
“In many ways, the challenges that Ireland faced in his times are replicated today in the most unprecedented economic downturn that we are currently experiencing. Today’s challenges require the same forthright and courageous approach by all sections of society, towards a spirit of national co-operation in bringing Ireland back from the brink of collapse,” he said
The book’s author, Maurice Colbert, worked for the co-operative movement, in both the IAOS and ICOS, during the period 1966 to 2002.
He comes from Ardmore, in Co Waterford, and now lives with his wife, Sheila, and family in the parish of Two-Mile-House, outside Naas, Co Kildare. Mr Colbert is also the author of Recollections of a Childhood in Ardmore, and Recollections of the Co-op Years.