Opinion

ICOS should step in and sort out Newtownsandes’ debacle

Surely ICOS has the moral authority to help settle the row that has erupted within the membership of Newtownsandes’ Co-op in North Kerry.

As many people will know, this issue has been simmering away for years. In fact, it was reported on by Agriland back in 2014.

But the sight of farmer members protesting outside the co-op’s offices in Moyvane earlier this week is far from edifying.

In fact, it is a state-of-affairs that reflects very badly on the Irish dairy industry as a whole.

My reason for shining the spotlight specifically on ICOS as a potential mediator is in direct response to me being told by one of the protest farmers that the group in question had asked the umbrella body to get involved.

But, seemingly, the word back from Dublin was ‘No’.

Given the circumstances involved, I find this approach from a body specifically established to represent the interests of Irish co-ops as pretty jaw dropping.

No doubt the management of ICOS can come up with reams of official reasons as to why they cannot get directly involved.

But in my opinion, they count for very little when it is the spirit of the matter that should take precedence. ICOS has a professional team of executives working on its behalf.

So, surely, it’s not beyond the realms of imagination that one of these people could be dispatched down to Moyvane and volunteer his or her services in an ‘honest broker’ capacity.

There are, of course, two sides to every story. The protesting farmers want management changes and the abatement of their fears regarding the future of the co-op.

They might not have actual numbers on their side. But they represent a significant proportion of the co-op’s milk pool.

On the other hand the creamery, according to its chairman, has consistently made profits over the past number of years.

Moreover, the farmer-members received an average price of 29c/L last year. Given this background, it strikes me that the issues at the core of the current dispute could be easily sorted out by a person with the right mix of diplomatic skills.

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