THE STORY OF A PEACEFUL REVOLUTION.
Co-operation in Ireland— Historical Survey.
IN presenting the following account of the birth and growth of the Co-operative Movement in Ireland, it seems necessary to point out, that the application of the co-operative principle to the main industry of the country appears likely to affect the national life of the Irish people, with a directness and importance quite unlike that exercised by it upon the national life of Great Britain. In Great Britain the inﬂuence of the movement upon national life and character is relatively indirect. Co-operation ranks amongst several great industrial regenerative forces, powerful and far-reaching in their effects upon the comfort and well-being of the people, but still subordinate to the tendencies of national commerce and political progress.
SOCIAL AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS OF IRELAND.
In Ireland the movement, although comparatively young, has “already passed out of the experimental stage,” and gives hope that it “will some day be seen to have made the last decade of the nineteenth century a ﬁt prelude to a future commensurate with the potentialities of the Irish people.” The ground for this large and sanguine hope rests chieﬂy on the past social and political conditions of the country — conditions which towards the middle of the nineteenth century left Ireland depressed, despairing, and almost careless of her future. It is not within the province of this book to deal with what is called the Irish Question, but we venture to quote the following passages, which seem to epitomise the situation, from Sir Horace Plunkett’s Ireland in the New Century in order that the student may arrive at a sympathetic appreciation of all that co-operation now means to that country:—
The chief success attained by co-operation in Ireland is in its application to agriculture, and for this reason it has acquired that direct national inﬂuence upon which so much hope is founded.
It is interesting to note that the ﬁrst recorded co-operative experiment in Ireland was in connection with agriculture, and was the direct result of the inﬂuence of Robert Owen, and took the form of the community experiment at Ralahine, described in Chapter VII., and for some twenty-ﬁve years after the collapse of this experiment there appears to be no record of further attempts at co-operative effort.
A PERIOD OF NATIONAL TRIAL AND DISTRESS.
Ireland had in the meantime passed through a period of ﬁerce trial and distress. The vitality of the nation was almost at its lowest ebb when, in 1847, the terrible famine broke down the remaining courage of the people, and allowed to ﬂow that steady tide of emigration which still continues, though not now altogether unchecked. In its course it has carried away to other lands over four millions of the sturdiest specimens of the Celtic race, leaving the population of Ireland in 1901 scarcely more than half what it was in 1841. 
During the twenty years following the great famine the tide of emigration was strongest, and the mind of the people was not in tune for constructive effort. 
EARLY DISTRIBUTIVE SOCIETIES.
In 1859 we ﬁnd a retail store established at Inchicore, near Dublin (which is still in existence), followed by several others in various parts of the country; but so little progress seems to have been made that in 1881 there were in Ireland only seven societies, with a total membership of 500, and total sales in that year amounting to £19,058. In 1888 these had grown to ten societies, with 1,127 members and nearly £35,000 of trade.
In July, 1888, Mr. Ernest Hart, a director of the Irish Exhibition then being held in London, invited the Southern Section of the Co-operative Union to organise a conference, to be held at the Exhibition, to discuss the possibility of extending the co-operative movement in Ireland. The invitation was cordially accepted, and on August 1st a large gathering of southern co-operators, with a sprinkling of Irish visitors, was held, under the chairmanship of Lord Aberdeen. A paper read by Mr. Benjamin Jones, then Hon. Secretary of the Southern Section, urged that steps should be taken to teach the principles of co-operation to the Irish workers as a means of making their labour more productive, and of increasing the amount of labour required, and suggested that co-operative effort in Ireland should begin with production, promising the help of English co-operators in this work. The proposals were enthusiastically taken up by the conference, and a committee appointed to form a propagandist association. The following persons were elected to undertake this work:— Messrs. Edward Vansittart Neale, George Jacob Holyoake, Benjamin Jones, Hodgson Pratt, J. J. Dent, Sedley Taylor, W. H. Bullock-Hall, Ernest Hart, and J. B. O’Callaghan.
FORMATION OF THE IRISH CO-OPERATIVE AID ASSOCIATION.
An “Irish Co-operative Aid Association” was formed, with Mr. Ernest Hart as chairman, B. Jones as treasurer, and J. J. Dent and W. H. Bullock-Hall as hon. secretaries. Subsequently the committee was strengthened by the addition of Mr. J. T. W. Mitchell as a representative of the Co-operative Union. Funds were raised and the association at once put itself in communication with every one known to have inﬂuence in Ireland, and it circulated by post in every parish in that country papers explanatory of the co-operative movement and its possibilities.
INTRODUCTION OF THE HON. HORACE C. PLUNKETT.
In September, 1888, the Hon. Horace C. Plunkett — now well known as the leader of the Irish co-operative movement and as vice-president of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction in Ireland  — described in the Nineteenth Century the success of the existing co-operative distributive store at Dunsany, and strongly appealed to men of all parties to assist in multiplying these societies all over Ireland; and subsequently he joined the committee of the Aid Association.
FORMATION OF THE IRISH SECTION OF THE CO-OPERATIVE UNION.
A deputation which visited Ireland on behalf of the Association, after making special inquiries, found that the expense and labour of successful organisation was more than could be continued by a voluntary association of busy men in London, and the Co-operative Union, at the instance of Mr. E. V. Neale, agreed to form an Irish Section, and to provide the necessary funds for active propaganda. An Irish Sectional Board was accordingly formed, its ﬁrst chairman being the Hon. H. C. Plunkett, and its secretary Mr. R. A. Anderson; and the London association was dissolved. Mr. J. C. Gray was sent by the Union to Ireland to make inquiries and to advise local co-operators, and submitted a report to the following Co-operative Congress in 1889, when Mr. Plunkett attended as a delegate from the Dunsany Store and addressed the Congress upon the conditions in Ireland.
By 1891 sixteen dairy societies had been established in Ireland under the auspices of the Union, three others were in process of formation, and a special grant was voted by Congress for the extension of the work.
Thus the work was carried on until 1894, at the end of which year there were 33 dairy societies, 13 retail stores and one agency society, or a total of 47 societies, recording a total trade for that year of £268,333.
FORMATION OF THE IRISH AGRICULTURAL ORGANISATION SOCIETY.
It was found at this time that the democratic machinery of the Co-operative Union, with its central ofﬁce in Manchester, was not sufficiently elastic to meet the requirements of the organisers in Ireland, and in 1894 a new society was formed and registered in Dublin for the purpose of organisation and propaganda, under the name of the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, the Hon. Horace Plunkett becoming its president and Mr. R. A. Anderson secretary. The objects of the society were stated to be:—
At its ﬁrst meeting the policy of the new society was laid down by Mr. Plunkett in the following words:—
The society quickly attracted to its service many men of all political and religious opinions who had not hitherto taken part in co-operative work, but who, under the guidance of Mr. Plunkett and Mr. Anderson, soon became able and zealous propagandists. Several have made themselves experts in all matters relating to the successful management of agricultural industries, and have engaged in the work not only of teaching co-operative principles, but also of giving advice and instruction both in the details of management of a society, and as to the technicalities of dairying and other branches of agricultural industry.
This ability to intelligently discuss and advise upon the technical details of a farmer’s work had doubtless much to do with the success of these organisers in gaining the conﬁdence of the farmers, and in bringing into combinations a class of men notoriously difficult hitherto to bring into any form of co-operation.
Apart from its industrial value to Irishmen, co-operation has proved of enormous value in breaking down the bitter class animosities which have existed in Ireland to an extent almost unknown in Great Britain, and in creating a bond of union amongst men of every shade of opinion. Many hold that this amelioration of social conditions is the most conspicuous success of the movement.
THE EXTENT OF THE MOVEMENT IN 1902.
Before describing in detail the characteristics of the various groups of societies now at work in Ireland, it may be useful to give a summary showing the extent to which the movement had grown by the end in 1902 of 1902, the latest year for which complete ﬁgures are available. 
1. Ireland in the New Century, by Horace Plunkett. Page 60.
2. Ibid. page 17.
3. Ibid, page 18.
4. Ibid, page 19.
5. Ibid, page 20.
6. Ibid, page 21.
7. Ibid, page 39.
8. In 1841 the population of Ireland was 8,175,124; in 1861, 5,798,564; in 1891, 4,707,750; and in 1901, 4,456,546.
9. The number of native Irish who emigrated in 1852 was 190,322, and in 1902, 40,190. Emigration Statistics of Ireland, 1903. [Cd., 20 30.]
10. See Chapter XXIV., page 223.
11. The ﬁgures are taken from the Board of Trade Labour Gazette, April, 1904. NoTE. — The Irish Agricultural Organisation Society’s Report for 1902 states that there were then in existence 706 societies in Ireland. Of this number, however, 75 were auxiliaries, e.g., branches of dairy societies; and a large number of other societies although registered had not commenced working. The Board of Trade ﬁgures given in the table may be taken to include practically every society at work in Ireland in 1902.
12. Amount lent to borrowers during the year (see Banking in the table above).