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Potential of co-operatives must be promoted – Reilly

19 January, 2012

Speaking today in a Seanad debate on job creation, Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly spoke positively on the role of co-operatives and called on the government to do more to promote them.

Senator Reilly said:

“Ireland’s economy is in many ways an adolescent one. It has not yet developed a set of robust domestic sectors that can drive growth independent of the global economy. 2012 is the International Year of Co-operatives the potential of which has not yet been fully realised or utilised in Ireland, especially in respect of the social economy, because of lack of visibility and understanding of the sector.

“In Argentina, a country that suffered a huge financial crisis in 2001 with devaluation of the currency and widespread unemployment, there are over 12,000 co-operative societies with over 9.3million members. Since 2001, over 200 failing businesses became occupied by their workers and re-opened as worker co-operative.

“Employment in co-operatives tends to be more stable as their members are in the community where they are located. Ownership and participation make a real difference as these businesses are formed in a community to serve its needs, they are less likely to relocate to lower wage jurisdictions.

“Similarly, while commercial companies may find it too costly to invest in these areas or they expect insufficient return, multi-stakeholder co-operatives provide vital services in communities. Furthermore, leakage of local money is presented as services and products offered assist in keeping money in the community.

“The impact of cooperatives in providing income to rural populations creates additional employment through multiplier effects including enabling other rural enterprises to grow and in turn provide local jobs.

“The government needs to implement the recommendations of the ILO Resolution 193 on the promotion of co-operatives. The continued growth and development of the co-operative model requires explicit recognition in new legislation.

“This may be achieved by defining co-operatives within the existing legislation, as has been done in the European Co-operative Statute. This should be brought forward as a matter of priority.” ENDS

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