#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 5°C Saturday 19 June 2021

The IFA's president is gone after a week-long pay scandal

Eddie Downey’s resignation followed that of the IFA’s general secretary, Pat Smith.

Outgoing IFA president Eddie Downey
Outgoing IFA president Eddie Downey
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated 10.13am, 26 November

THE IRISH FARMERS’ Association (IFA) is to elect a new president after its existing head resigned during mammoth overnight talks.

In a statement released early this morning, IFA deputy president Tim O’Leary said a number of key decisions had been made at the meeting, which closed about 4.30am.

They included using “all legal avenues” to challenge a severance package for former general secretary Pat Smith, who resigned last week after pressure to disclose his salary.

The meeting was told Smith, whose pay package was worth almost €1 million in 2013 and 2014 combined, had agreed an exit deal that included a €1 million up-front payment and another €100,000 per year for the next decade.

The IFA’s outgoing president, Eddie Downey, who resigned during the meeting, reportedly signed off on the severance package.

90401137 Downey and Taoiseach Enda Kenny in September Source: Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie

It was also confirmed that a review into salaries at the organisation will be conducted by former IFA chief economist Con Lucey.

The council welcomed Lucey’s involvement as “an important step forward in rebuilding the trust of farmers”.

Speaking to Morning Ireland, O’Leary said the IFA is “determined that we are going to rebuild”, adding that the organisation’s finances will be more accountable and transparent in the future.

90400925 Former IFA chief economist Con Lucey Source: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

‘Shocked and horrified’ 

On the same programme, Margaret Donnelly, editor of agriland.ie, said IFA members are “shocked” at the payment details that have emerged.

She said the executive council has ”a very tough sell” to persuade members that it should remain in place.

Its members are shocked and horrified and upset and let down over what has happened and what has emerged.

Donnelly said the organisation needs to “reform from the inside out”.

90400888 Former IFA general secretary Pat Smith Source: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

Richard Connell, IFA west Cork chair, said he hoped farmers would not cancel their memberships as a result of the controversy, but admitted there was “an awful lot of anger out there” and that rebuilding trust would be “a long road”.

IFA Carlow chair and former deputy president Derek Deane, who pulled the trigger on the scandal earlier this month, told Newstalk Breakfast it was “very clear we had to get rid of (Smith)”.

I believe that we will fight the (severance) package now tooth and nail … and I believe it’s the right decision,” he said.

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

Deane said he would only describe Downey as “collateral damage” from the pay scandal.

Deane1 IFA Carlow chair Derek Deane Source: James Horan/RollingNews.ie

Stepping down

In a statement last night, Downey said he was stepping down “in the best interests of the association”.

“I have always demanded the highest levels of governance and accountability within IFA and my clear understanding was that governance and management of IFA was a clear function and responsibility of the senior executive leadership with oversight from elected officers,” he said.

It is well known that I was determined to be a reforming president. In that regard I worked to get the audit committee up and working, met with Con Lucey and agreed with his proposed solutions to issues to be addressed by that committee. Unfortunately, that committee’s work was frustrated.”

Yesterday, Downey said he would “step back” to facilitate the salary review after earlier revelations that Smith had received a salary package of €535,000 in 2013, and €445,000 last year. Downey’s own salary was revealed to have been €147,000.

- with reporting by Órla Ryan and Peter Bodkin

Read: The IFA’s top official could be walking away with a €2 million nest egg>

Read: IFA pay scandal – President steps back as review of top salaries begins>

About the author:

Dan MacGuill

Read next: