The Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA) has announced that it will be holding two Extraordinary General Meetings (EGMs) later this month. These meetings will give the association’s 6,000 plus members the opportunity to vote on the future direction of the organization. Founded in 1910, the ICA is a registered charity and will hold both EGMs on Saturday, November 18, in Athlone.
The first EGM, which was requisitioned by the ICA’s national executive board, will focus on the current structure of the organization. For several decades, the ICA has operated with two legal structures – a company called the Countrywomen’s Trust and an association called the Irish Countrywomen’s Association. Each structure had its own governing body and set of rules. However, the Charities Regulator has raised concerns about this arrangement, stating that “it is a serious governance issue that two legal entities are being run as one charity.” The current charitable registration for the ICA only covers the association. As a result, 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.
In a correspondence sent to all members, the ICA stated that “it is proposed that, going forward, the ICA will carry on all of its operations and activities under the company structure only.” The organization assured members that there will be very little change in how the ICA operates on a practical level, but the legal and technical changes are important for compliance.
The ICA currently has approximately 440 guilds across the country, with each guild being part of a county committee known as federations. According to the latest annual report filed with the Charities Regulator, the ICA had a total income of over €1.12 million and total expenditure of over €1.35 million for the 12 months ending December 31, 2022. The report also revealed that the ICA’s sources of income included government and local authority funding, income from other public bodies, trading and commercial activities, and other sources. The organization’s total assets at the end of 2022 were valued at €13,177,620.
At the first EGM on November 18, the ICA will present five motions as resolutions for its members to vote on. One of these motions involves the transfer of any residual assets or liabilities from the association structure into the Countrywomen’s Trust. The second EGM has been requisitioned by a group of ICA members representing 65 guilds. This group will put forward a motion for a vote of no confidence in the ICA national executive board and the chief executive, calling for their immediate resignation. The group has urged all guilds to attend and support this motion at the EGM.
In response to these developments, the ICA released a statement expressing that the national executive board has convened the EGM on structures’ work and that the authority of the members is now required to proceed with the resolution to regularize the legal structure. The statement also emphasized the board’s complete trust and confidence in the chief executive officer of the ICA, praising her dedication, high standards, and the caliber of her work.