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The IFA's top official could be walking away with a €2 million nest egg

Pat Smith stood down last week over controversy about his pay packet.

IFA president Eddie Downey in silhoutte
IFA president Eddie Downey in silhoutte
Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

Updated 16.23

THE IRISH FARMERS’ Association has not ruled out its former top bureaucrat walking away with a pension pot of €2 million on top of a severance package after he stepped down over a pay scandal.

IFA general secretary Pat Smith resigned last week after sustained pressure over the non-disclosure of his salary. It was later revealed he was on a package worth almost €1 million for 2013 and 2014 combined.

The organisation’s president, Eddie Downey, whose salary was revealed to be €147,000 a year, has also “stepped back” from his role while a review of the peak farming body’s remuneration is carried out.

Today the Irish Independent reported Smith, who had been with the organisation for 25 years, would walk away with a €2 million pension pot with a possible, further ‘golden handshake’ still under discussion.

The IFA’s total operating budget for last year was €12.9 million.

IFA1 Source: IFA

In an interview broadcast on Newstalk Breakfast this morning with Lunchtime presenter Jonathan Healy, IFA deputy president Tim O’Leary said his “clear understanding” was there had been no “finalised agreement reached on (Smith’s) package”.

“I think it’s governed by very strong labour law, we have duties to our employees here and we will be fair and just to all bodies in this negotiation,” he said.

To my knowledge, today, it is not agreed, signed and sealed.”

File Photo The IFA General Secretary Pat Smith has resigned from his position. The resignation comes in the wake of calls from grassroot members of the IFA and one of the most senior members of the organisation to make known to its Executive Council the s Pat Smith, left, and Eddie Downey Source: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

When asked if Smith’s pension pot could be as high as €2 million, O’Leary didn’t dispute the figure. He replied: ”These discussions are covered by confidentiality.”

A good image

The IFA has appointed the organisation’s former chief economist, Con Lucey, to review pay and corporate governance at the organisation. He is due to report back in three weeks to the group’s executive council.

The probe will look at Smith’s pay package from his appointment to the top role in 2009 until his resignation this year, as well as remuneration for the organisation’s president and deputy president.

90400924 Former IFA chief economist Con Lucey Source: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Lucey said: ”A voluntary, representative organisation such as IFA needs to be above suspicion in everything it does, in order to both maintain the trust of the members and to maintain its good image in the media and wider society.”

Sinn Féin has called for salaries within all publicly funded or membership-based groups, like the IFA, to be disclosed, while Tánaiste Joan Burton also said leaders in similar organisations should consider revealing their pay packages.

First published 10.45am

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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