Following “piecemeal amendments” over the past 120 years, laws and regulations governing co-operative societies are set to be brought into the 21st century in a “root-and-branch” revamp, according to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

Confirming the news to AgriLand, a spokesperson for the department said: “As part of the root-and-branch review, the department has conducted a public consultation on the operation and implementation of the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts 1893 – 2014.

“A total of 10 responses were received to the consultation.

The submissions highlighted the need for a consideration of a wide range of issues, including providing co-operative societies with a distinct legislative identity reflecting the co-operative ethos, reducing the minimum number of members, facilitating electronic filing and introducing audit exemptions in line with the approach taken in the Companies Act 2014. 

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys intends to bring forward legislation consolidating and modernising the statutory code in this area later this year, the spokesperson added.

The Industrial and Provident Societies Acts 1893-2014 provide the statutory regulatory basis in Ireland for the formation and general operation of industrial and provident societies, which are primarily co-operatives.

“After various piecemeal amendments introduced over more than 120 years the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation initiated a root-and-branch review of what is a largely Victorian statutory code,” the representative said.

The purpose of the comprehensive review is to consolidate into one statute all existing industrial and provident societies legislation and modernise it to eliminate outdated provisions and align it with the realities of the 21st century business and regulatory environment.

This will ensure a level playing field between co-operatives and the other legal options for structuring enterprise activities and provide an effective legislative framework suitable for the diverse range of organisations using the co-operative model in Ireland, according to the department.