portrait of the co-operative movement is one of a voluntary, nominally non-state organisation that exerted considerable influence over the economy and character of an emergent nation-state.
I start with an examination of the IAOS leadership and the focus then moves between the national and local layers of the co-operative movement from the 1890s onwards. In this latter regard, understanding the role of the co-operative organiser is crucial. The IAOS's Executive Committee consisted of landlords, Catholic clergy, industrialists, Unionists and
. Furthermore, members of the Catholic clergy helped to establish the co-operative movement at a local level. Parish priests and curates played an important brokerage role when they worked to create local support for a proposed creamery or credit society. In effect, the IAOS formed a site for a new co-operative élite to discuss the implications of its movement's project.
Keen observers of rural developments outside Ireland watched the unfolding agrarian experiment taking place with great interest. The IAOS represented one of the most prominent agrarian
let loose three great agencies, the IAOS, the Gaelic League, and the Department upon the work.
Diffusion of the co-operative model required concerted action between not only national agents such as the IAOS and Gaelic League, but also local influential brokers such as the clergy. On occasion this social co-operation produced cordial relations that transcended traditional sectarian divisions. To highlight this effect, the Homestead 's report on Dromore concluded with an incident that demonstrated
destiny’. This recasting of the ‘old “agricultural society”’ emerged when it was ‘difficult to forecast the economic future of the country at such a time of stress and uncertainty’. The general purpose society represented the IAOS's attempt to link ‘the success of farming … with the spread both of agricultural and distributive co-operation’. 96
The Catholic clergy within the IAOS viewed the general purpose society as a way to bridge the interests of consumers and producers. Fr Michael O’Flanagan supported the co-operative movement as a force for