Monday 26 September 2016

Agriculture expert was recognised as a shrewd negotiator

Published 22/11/2015 | 02:30

EYE OF THE STORM: Pat Smith resigned ‘in the best interests of the IFA’.
EYE OF THE STORM: Pat Smith resigned ‘in the best interests of the IFA’.

When Pat Smith became general secretary of the Irish Farmers Association in 2009, the country was bedding into recession and a property crash that left farmers and non-farmers alike reeling.

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It is not known what remuneration package Mr Smith agreed at the time. But it must have been sizeable enough to rise to €535,000 in 2013, although it dropped again to €445,000 last year.

Mr Smith came from a farming family in Kilmainhamwood in Co Meath, studied at Warrenstown Agricultural College and then went on to University College Dublin for a degree in agriculture.

He worked in Scotland as an agriculture adviser, moved back to Ireland and then got himself some business qualifications with a diploma in accounting and finance.

In 1989, he joined the Irish Farmers Association as an executive secretary of the farm business and environment committees. Within a year, he was a director of the IFA, charged with increasing its membership and improving its efficiency.

He stayed in that post until he succeeded Michael Berkery as general secretary in 2009, elected by a panel which include Derek Deane, the man who would later trigger his downfall by demanding disclosure of his remuneration package.

He headed the IFA through protests over CAP reform and was head of the IFA's campaigning machine calling for a Yes vote in the Lisbon referendum.

According to some figures in the industry, Pat Smith was regarded primarily as a businessman. The IFA valued his "capacity to development trusted relationships with political and industry leaders" and his "negotiating and organisational ability", according to a statement issued by Eddie Downey last week.

There were rumours around his salary. In recent months, a former vice-president of the IFA, Derek Deane, began asking questions.

Last month, he proposed a motion for a full disclosure of his remuneration.

The IFA's executive council voted it down. But IFA executives in several other counties took up the baton.

On Friday, the IFA president Eddie Downey and executive council released Mr Smith's full package including pension - €445,000 in 2014 and €535,000 in 2013.

"This was not sustainable and unacceptable. Accordingly, we have dealt with it. Going forward, the remuneration package of the IFA General Secretary will be disclosed and will be a matter of public record in the annual accounts," said Mr Downey,

Pat Smith resigned last week "in the best interests" of the IFA. The terms of his departure are confidential and out of public view.

Sunday Independent

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