It was a casual remark, made by the late Horace Plunkett, leader of the Co-operative Movement when addressing his members in 1910, that led to a quiet revolt among Irish women and a sudden awareness of their contribution to the fabric of family and community life, and eventually led to the establishment of the Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA).
“We men can see to the better farming and better business, but only women can see to the better living,” Plunkett remarked on that fateful day in 1910. Just a few months later the Society of the United Irish Women was born and in 1935 the organisation changed its name to the ICA.
This year, the ICA’s Longford Town Guild celebrates its 60th anniversary. Plans are in place to mark the occasion with a special dinner and music at the Rugby Club, however the task of finding the many past members who have moved on over the years has been left firmly in the hands of the current Guild’s secretary Kathleen Kelly. While she remains softly spoken and focused, her feisty determination to round up the troops and celebrate all that is good about an organisation that remains dear to her heart, is clearly evident.
“60 years is a long time and is worth celebrating,” Ms Kelly told the Leader. “We need to get the word out that we are having this event, but we also know that there are many past members who we will need to find. We plan to have dinner and entertainment, if that is what members would like at Longford Rugby Club on April 12 next.”
The Longford Town Guild was first established at the Longford Arms Hotel by Miss O’Connell on a cold January evening in 1954. Needless to say, it went from strength to strength and acted as the catalyst to which other guilds were born throughout the county. The Guild boasted hundreds of women in its ranks and provided a platform on which they could discuss issues that mattered and where they could develop their own creative and home based roles within their own communities.
“Membership has decreased in recent years, and the ICA is engaging in a national recruitment campaign in an effort to encourage younger women to join up,” Ms Kelly continued. “That campaign takes place on March 2 and we will have recruitment at a number of locations in Longford town on that day. There is a concept out there that the ICA is about women meeting up doing crafts and drinking tea – but that is a misconception - and we hope that the recruitment campaign will highlight that. ICA is about women having a voice and being heard; it is about support, support in the community and support in family life; it is about sharing and caring; it is about giving. It has played such an important role in the lives of women in Co Longford over the past 60 years, so it would be great to mark the occasion and examine all that is good about ICA in our communities.” For more details about the 60th anniversary celebrations, contact Kathleen Kelly on (086) 3194662 or email firstname.lastname@example.org