ICOS: Strong leadership needed in ‘new normal’ of Trump and Brexit

A call has been made for co-op bosses to demonstrate strong leadership in the wake of a “new normal” set by Brexit and the Trump presidency.

It came from Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) President Martin Keane during a speech at the group’s 122nd AGM held in Portlaoise last Friday, May 19.

He said: “On behalf of our members, our neighbours and friends, the people who elected us, we must show strong, decisive leadership, and take tough decisions, always in the long-term interests of our members”.

Keane said 2016 will be remembered as the year when most people’s idea of ‘normal’ was challenged through the development of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as President of the US.

We are now faced with dealing with the outcome of these events. This is very pertinent to us, as we are in the business of leadership.

“As an organisation, we need to provide leadership to our members, to demonstrate a way to tackle the challenges facing us. That doesn’t mean telling people what they want to hear, or pretending our problems can be made to go away,” he said.

ICOS has an important role to play in supporting us to show that leadership.

“Through its training programmes, mentoring, and advice on rules and governance, it is a resource and a support for co-op directors to ensure that they can exercise that leadership responsibly, so that you can deliver for your members, while complying with your legal responsibilities, and creating strategies to strengthen and build your own co-ops.”

Keane said Brexit will be a profound challenge to the agri-food sector. “A strong co-operative movement is needed now more than ever before to ensure that farmers continue to shape and control the future direction of their industry,” he concluded.

Speaking at a separate event last week, Keane stated the importance of co-operatives.

He said: “Co-operatives integrate the role of producer, processor and the marketer, helping to re-balance the food chain, bring viable incomes to their members and offer a level of protection from the volatility.”