The Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA) is to hold two Extraordinary General Meetings (EGMs) later this month to give its 6,000 plus members an opportunity to vote on its future direction.

The national organisation, which was founded in 1910, and is a registered charity, will hold both EGMs on the same day on Saturday, November 18, in Athlone.

The first EGM, requisitioned by the ICA’s national executive board, will focus on the current structure of the organisation, which has operated for several decades with two legal structures – a company called the Countrywomen’s Trust and an association called the Irish Countrywomen’s Association.

Each legal structure had its own governing body and own set of rules.

However the Charities Regular has “confirmed” to the ICA that “it is a serious governance issue that two legal entities are being run as a one charity” and that the current charitable registration for the ICA covers the association only.

As a result of this the ICA will seek approval from its members at the first EGM to operate in the future under “one legal structure, with one governing body and one set of rules”.

ICA structure

In correspondence sent to all of its members the organisation stated: “It is proposed that, going forward, the ICA will carry on all of its operations and activities under the company structure only.

“The current company structure will be enhanced to ensure that the membership, guilds and federations of the lCA can continue in the usual way, operating from and within the company.

“There will be very little change to how the lCA operates on a practical level but the legal and technical changes are very important to our compliance”.

The organisation has in the region of 440 guilds across the country, each guild is also part of a county committee known as federations.

According to the latest ICA annual report filed with the Charities Regulator, for the 12 months ending December, 31, 2022, the organisation had a total income of more than €1.12 million and total expenditure of over €1.35 million.

The annual report also details that the ICA’s source of income during the period included €47,443 from central government or local authorities, €47,540 from other public bodies, €147,663 from trading and commercial activities and €880,528 from other sources.

The report also details that the ICA’s total assets at December, 31, 2022 totaled €13,177,620.

At the first EGM on November 18, in Athlone, the ICA will ask its members to vote on a total of five motions as resolutions of the ICA including the “transfer of any residual asset or liability or undertaking contained within the association structure, (if any) into the Countrywomen’s Trust”.

The second ICA EGM, has been requisitioned by a group of ICA members which represents 65 of its guilds.

Phillis Roe, who has been a member of the ICA for 42 years, is the Meath federation president and chair of the group of ICA members who requested the second EGM.

At this EGM a motion will be put forward for “a vote of no confidence a: in the ICA national executive board, individually and collectively and b: the chief executive and request that they step down with immediate effect”.

In correspondence which has been forwarded by this group they state that “the outcome of the EGM and the future of ICA are in our hands” and has urged all guilds to “turn up and support this motion” in relation to the EGM on November 18.

Meanwhile the ICA said in a statement to Agriland: “The national executive board have convened the EGM on structures’ work. It is the authority of the members of the ICA that is now required to proceed with resolution to regularise the legal structure, in a manner that is in the best interests of the association now and into the future.  

“The national executive board and the staff of the ICA have complete trust and confidence in the chief executive officer of the ICA.

“Her dedication, high standards and the calibre of her work are beyond reproach.’