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Friday 22 September 2017

'There was hurt, it felt like being let down by a friend' - IFA president on pay scandal

Joe Healy on his farm near Athenry, Co Galway. Photo: Ray Ryan
Joe Healy on his farm near Athenry, Co Galway. Photo: Ray Ryan
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

THE IFA president Joe Healy has stressed the organisation has gone above and beyond any legal accountancy requirements as it strives to deliver transparency to the farm families that back them following the pay revelations.

"There was a lot of hurt. The people that were hurting maybe were absolutely die-hard IFA men. One top-class IFA man down through the years told me he felt like he was let down by his best friend. There would be many similar to him," he said.

"All they wanted was the IFA to be in the news for what they were lobbying on - such as meeting Michel Barnier on Brexit negotiations or Commissioner Hogan for funding CAP going forwards, or meeting politicians on the ANC review."

Now, a visible return to concentrating on the important issues that impact on farmers' pockets through commodity prices has seen sentiment improve. The president feels new chief executive Damian McDonald, formerly of Horse Sport Ireland and a past Macra president, has been positive for the organisation, bringing experience and business acumen.

Read also: Farmers 'furious' over €535,000 pay for IFA chief

Now they are working to ensure the organisation remains adequately funded to continue the lobbying services both here and in Brussels that Irish farmers need.

Income drop

The 2016 annual report showed membership at 75,829 - a drop on the 88,000 it stated just three years ago.

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Income had also taken a hit with €18.9m last year, down €1.2m from €20.1m in 2015.

The European Investment Fund (EIF) levy, collected from farmers, dropped 12pc from €4.6m in 2015 to €4.1m in 2016.

Now they are working on a three-year plan to restore the finances and have met with almost all of the 200 of the main levy collectors.

Read also: 'Honesty, integrity cost me my job' - ex-IFA boss

Healy stressed the implementation committee set up to put in place the Con Lucey report's recommendations had repeatedly returned to the levies charged on commodities, combined with the membership fee, as being the fairest method of funding the organisation.

"When you break it down, the levy equates to €1.50 per €1,000 worth of sales or €15 for €10,000 worth of sales," he said.

He said the numbers withdrawing membership and levies dropped off to a trickle as the year progressed. This, he feels, coincided with the IFA's work on Brexit, the €150m low-cost finance fund, work on live exports, the €10 ewe payment and work on the rural social scheme.

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