Tirlán is proposing a significant overhaul of its representative structure to address the lack of gender and age diversity within the co-op’s ranks.

Currently, there is only one woman on the Tirlán council, alongside 88 men. To rectify this imbalance, the co-op proposes to create an extra 13 positions on the council, all to be filled by women.

Over time, the plan is to contract the council’s size back to 89 members. This will be done through “natural wastage”, where men retiring from the council on age grounds will not be replaced. At the end of this process, the quota of 13 women will remain.

Tirlán is creating an extra 33 places among the regional advisory committees (three in each region) all to be filled by women, to create a permanent pool of female candidates for the council positions.

In addition, Tirlán proposes to remove the formal ring-fencing of council seats from 2026 on, “to ensure that best candidates are available for appointment and that no candidates are blocked from standing simply because of their geographic location.

To ensure that candidates have the skill set to take positions of responsibility on what is a €3bn business, it’s proposed that a governance academy be set up.

This will train and develop co-op members, with introductory short courses initially, with young farmer groups set up to develop a talent pool.

As people work their way through the representative structure, a five-tier learning programme in conjunction with UCC and ICOS will continue to offer educational opportunities.

Tirlán vice-chair Brendan Hayes chairs the representative structure committee, and is meeting with the 11 advisory councils to explain the changes and the motivation behind them.

Tenure limits for all levels of representation, right up to board level, will be made next year. While the board is currently comprised of 14, it was felt that the lack of diversity within the council must be addressed first.

An SGM to consider the proposals has been called for Wednesday 11 October in Kilkenny’s Lyrath Hotel.