Pictured at the AGM in the Lyrath Hotel, Kilkenny, was Tirlán CEO Jim Bergin, who is due to retire after a 40-year career later this year. (Photo: Dylan Vaughan)

Tirlán Co-op’s AGM heard calls for an urgent Government-supported national action plan and taskforce to improve water quality to deliver the best case to retain Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation.

The AGM of Tirlán Co-op, Ireland’s leading food and nutrition co-operative, highlighted the importance of preserving and securing the role of agriculture and food production in Irish society, after a challenging year due to declining global markets and difficult weather conditions.

At last week’s AGM in Lyrath Hotel, Kilkenny, Tirlán chairperson John Murphy highlighted the importance of the recently launched Farming for Water: River Slaney Project, a collaborative initiative designed to enhance water quality and to enable the best case to be made to retain Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation post-2026.

“Our farmers are taking positive action to farm more sustainably and to protect and enhance water quality. This is reflected in our €16 million Sustainability Action Payment, with over 95% of dairy suppliers taking part. We have continued to make progress on our targets through our Living Proof sustainability strategy with a reduction of 6.3% in the carbon footprint of milk produced.

“Tirlán will leave no stone unturned to retain the derogation because it is the right thing for our environment, it is the right thing for our farmers, it is the right thing for our Co-op and it is the right thing for the economy of rural Ireland.”

Tirlán CEO Jim Bergin welcomed recent pledges by the Taoiseach, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Government and called on them to introduce an urgent national action plan, including a cross-party taskforce, to put the best case forward for the retention of Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation.

Mr Bergin also emphasised the need to continue to support and resource water advisory services across all farming sectors to ensure a farmer-centric practical approach to deliver on collaborative projects to improve water quality. He also highlighted the importance of consistently tracking progress through science-based measurement.


In the midst of a challenging year, the performance of the Co-op remained strong, with an equity book value of €1.3 billion.

The AGM heard a continued focus on financial discipline delivered significantly reduced core net debt, down from €234 million in 2022 to €155 million last year, the lowest level in a decade.

The Co-op paid a dividend of 19.058 cent per share to members for 2023, amounting to €6.5 million. There has been a 27.1% rise in the Co-op dividend payment since 2020. Shareholders voted in favour of approving a 10% increase in the share interest (dividend) payment per share to 20.96 cent per share.

Chairperson John Murphy highlighted the distribution of value by the Co-op to its members, with €866 million worth of Glanbia plc shares spun-out to Co-op members since 2012.

Jim Bergin, who is retiring from his position as CEO of Tirlán later this year, was thanked for his contribution to the Co-op and advocacy on behalf of farmers over a 40-year career.

He highlighted the progress at the new Kilkenny Cheese joint venture at Belview which is bringing continental cheese varieties to new markets.

“The performance of our organisation in a challenging year reflects the underlying strengths of the business. As we look to the future, we have developed a talented workforce, a network of high-spec facilities with an increased focus on R&D and an excellent community of farm suppliers. In addition, we are well set towards future investment with our €210 million Investment Fund for the benefit of our members.”

Tirlán vice chairperson, Pat Murphy and board member, Paddy Whyte, retired from the Tirlán Board. Both members were thanked for their combined 20 years of service and their contribution to the Co-op during a period of development. They have been replaced by James O’Brien and James Finn.