ICOS and IFA celebrate 50 years in Brussels

As Ireland celebrates 50 years’ membership of the EU this year, the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) has marked the opening of its Brussels office five decades ago in 1973.

ICOS (The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society) currently represents 130 co-operative enterprises in Ireland, with over 150,000 individual members, a combined turnover of €14 billion and employing more than 12,000 people.

ICOS and the IFA opened offices the same year to coincide with Ireland joining the EEC. Both organisations marked the occasion jointly together at a function held in Brussels last week.

Speaking at the weekend, ICOS President James O’Donnell said: “Over the past five decades, we have been able to represent our members’ best interests by being at the coalface of where the big decisions are made. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the European co-operative movement and to support each other in the spirit of co-operation and promoting enterprise.

“We are very proud to continue to have a strong presence here in Brussels and of being part of COPA COGECA. As we look ahead, we are entering very testing times for farmers and for co-ops. Many of the challenges, that are coming with force at us, are because of legislation being proposed and driven by the EU institutions.

“So, it has never been more important than it is now to underpin that strong united voice at the heart of the EU”.

Mr O’Donnell also used the occasion to highlight the importance of fairness for farmers within the corridors of the EU Commission and the EU Parliament.

“We must insist that our voices are heard at Commission level, at Parliament level and at Council level. I urge those of you from the Commission and the parliament who are with us this evening to listen to our concerns and work with us in supporting the vital role which our farmers, food producers and co-ops play across Europe,” he stated.

The ICOS President and the board also held meetings with Irish MEPs in the European Parliament highlighting ICOS concerns in relation to several policy proposals currently being debated at Commission and Parliament level.

To mark the 50th anniversary, ICOS and the IFA held a joint reception in Brussels, attended by over 200 guests including ICOS President James O’Donnell, IFA President Tim Callinan, the Irish Ambassador to Belgium Kevin Conmy, former staff members, the board of ICOS, MEPs, EU Commission officials and international colleagues from COPA COGECA along with IFA staff, former staff and committee representatives.