Legitimising Mutuality in Public Discourse: Exploring Parliamentary Debates on Credit Unions in Ireland, 1959-1999

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How did credit unions in Ireland move from the margins to become a nationally recognised movement? More generally, how do co-operatives promote their economic and organisational models in the public sphere? This article examines the importance of having a supportive legislative environment to enable co-operative development. It does this by exploring Irish parliamentary debates on credit unions between 1959 and 1999, including the lobbying for and debates about the Credit Union Act, 1966, and the revised Credit Union Act, 1997. The article traces the shift in public debate from advocacy in the early years of the credit union movement to a more complex mixture of advocacy and critique in later decades. The article offers three contributions. First, not only is legislation important for helping the credit unions to grow, the wider debates about legislation play a crucial legitimising role. Second, the paper demonstrates a relatively rare example of successful lobbying by community activists. Finally, it underscores the importance of training and education in order to maintain public awareness of the co-operative economic and organisational model.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-37
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Co-operative Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2021

Structured keywords

  • MGMT theme Inclusive Economy
  • MGMT Work Organisation and Public Policy


  • credit unions
  • discourse analysis
  • legislation
  • lobbying
  • parliamentary debates
  • political discourse analysis


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