The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association was set up in 1993 by farmers who were concerned that there was not an adequate voice for the beef and lamb sectors. At first, these farmers felt that the old ICSA, (Irish Cattle Traders and Stockowners’ Association) could be revived. This association has its roots in the 19th century and several references to it appear in James Joyce’s famous work, Ulysses.Following a series of meetings in traditional beef fattening areas such as Enfield, Tullamore and Kinnegad, as well as in counties such as Donegal, it was decided to re-launch this association. However, while the link with the old Cattle Traders and Stockowners’ Association was retained in the name, this was very much a new start up association that pledged to fight for all drystock farmers including sheep and suckler farmers.
Hence, the new association styled itself “ICSA – the Drystock Farmers’ Association”. Significant progress was made in the early days and the first office was located in the house of its first secretary, the indefatigable Pat Lalor from Kilbeggan. His vision was to put in place the structures for a professional organisation and this was reflected in the recruitment of a full time general secretary, Eddie Collins Hughes, and dedicated recruitment officers. Jimmy Cosgrave from Meath chaired the association until 1996 and he was succeeded by Albert Thompson from Laois who was in charge until 1999.
Within a number of years, ICSA had established a full time office in Portlaoise and the association was put on a very professional footing by Eddie Collins Hughes on an extremely tight budget. However, he stepped down as general secretary to pursue a role in the Carers’ Association in 1998 and was replaced by Ray Doyle who was replaced in turn by Eddie Punch in 1999. Charlie Reilly from Meath assumed the presidency of ICSA in 1999, and he held this post until early 2003.
Since then, ICSA has grown to an association of over 10,000 members, with members in all 26 counties. The ICSA national executive has over 100 members drawn from all over the country on the basis of 4 members for each county (subject to membership criteria).
A more detailed history of ICSA’s policy background is available here.