Recently, the Irish Countrywomen’s Association decided to make some changes in an effort to attract more members and keep the organisation alive for another hundred years, at least. The first of those changes became official last weekend with the inauguration of the new President and her Regional Presidents.
The outgoing President of the Laois Federation, Kathleen Gorman has the honour of being one of the first regional presidents for the Border, Midlands and West, a role she will share with Sligo’s Mary Harkin.
“There was lots of changes in the new constitution to try and rejuvenate ICA, one of those new ideas was to have an election year every three years. This is the first election,” explains Kathleen.
In order to get the votes, Kathleen had to persuade the different guilds from Laois and around the region to vote for her.
“I cover from Laois to Donegal now, and all the counties in between. The top county I had to look for votes in was Donegal, but I would have had closer links with Kildare, Carlow and Kilkenny but they are in the South East region now.”
Kathleen has also represented Laois on the new board of ICA, and has held the position of Leinster Vice President since mid-2011.
“Laois was one of the counties selected to comprise the new board, so I was privileged to be afforded the opportunity to serve on that board.”
Still unsure of what her new role will entail, Kathleen was expecting to get her brief at the organisation’s recent AGM. Kathleen is handing over the reigns of a very healthy Laois federation to Betty Gorman. The county has 25 guilds, including one of the oldest in the country and 475 members. During her term as Federation President, Kathleen also opened a new guild in Portlaoise Town.
“I have been an ICA member for 40 years. I have always been a very enthusiastic and committed member of my guild and have served in most offices, and held the office of Guild President for three different terms. I have held several positions in Laois Federation - craft promoter, contest secretary, federation secretary and Federation President,” she explains.
At home, Kathleen serves on many voluntary committees and she is a board member of Laois Sport Partnership, Dunamaise Arts Centre, Laois County Development Board, Community Forum and many others.
Kathleen says that in these recessionary times, organisations like ICA are needed more than ever.
“ICA is a fantastic organisation. Ladies who have lost their partners find it a great source of support. Here in Laois we go away on a foreign trip every September and spend a week at An Grianan.”
But Kathleen can see how the recession is affecting the ICA also.
“People who are able to support the ICA are usually retired ladies, but now they are helping to look after their grandchildren. Before people would be able to do things during the week, now they prefer weekend activies.”
It would come as no surpise to Laois Federation members if one day, Kathleen Gorman is elected as National President, but for now she has high ambitions for her three years as Regional President.
“My aspirations would be to increase our membership, continue to be a lobbying force, be a strong voice for women, giving consideration to health issues especially mental health and to promote our college in An Grianan. My experience on the National Executive Board has given me the expertise and knowledge to take on the challenge of Regional President.”