Farm Ireland

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Contenders for the presidency

Published 02/12/2015 | 02:30

Derek Deane
Derek Deane
Tim O'Leary
Henry Burns
Jer Bergin
Flor McCarthy, IFA
Bryan Barry
Tom Tynan

We take a look at the main contenders to fill the IFA presidency void.

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Derek Deane


"I will be making no decision until a date is set," Derek Deane told the Farming Independent.

If Derek does run, he has to be in a strong position. He has been a long-time critic of Pat Smith and was the person who stood up at an IFA national council meeting calling for the pay of the then general secretary to be made known, triggering recent revelations.

Coming from a small county, as Carlow is, has traditionally been a disadvantage in IFA national elections. However, this may be offset by a wave of support from those who have been outraged by recent events.

Seen as bright, articulate and now, by many, also brave, father-of-three Derek is a full-time beef farmer, as is his wife, Mary.

Derek was elected livestock chairman in 2001, deputy president in 2005 and was beaten by John Bryan in his bid for the presidency in 2009. He was off the scene for a few years before returning as county chair.

Tim O'Leary


Cork dairy farmer Tim O'Leary was the first out of the blocks to declare his candidacy for the job to replace Eddie Downey. The only previous IFA president from Cork was Donie Cashman from 1980 to '84.

When O'Leary was elected IFA deputy president two years ago, he made no secret of his intention to eventually go for the top job.

Since taking over as acting president 10 days ago and becoming the public face of the IFA, he has pledged transparency and accountability. But these are unchartered waters.

He is also facing questions over whether the audit committee, of which he is a member, was too slow to act on Con Lucey's letter of August 2014.

He has insisted they were working to tackle it in the background.

A good clear speaker, he has a Cork confidence that could be seen as good and bad in equal measure.

Mairead Lavery

Mairead Lavery is a well-known and respected voice inside and outside of farming.

She hails from a farming family in Wicklow and now lives in Shangolden, Co Limerick. Married to Sean, they have three adult children. After joining Limerick IFA in 1989, she was county chair for a year before moving to the Irish Farmers Journal.

Mairead also appears regularly on various TV and radio programmes and was the first woman to chair Agri-Aware.

She represented the IFA on the board of the National Economic and Social Council but has not had any significant involvement in recent years. Last time round she was mooted as a potential candidate after former IFA president John Dillon tweeted "Mairead Lavery would make a great president of IFA". She did not run.

Mairead has not yet given any public indication as to her participation this time round.

Henry Burns


Henry Burns, a beef, sheep and tillage farmer from Mountmellick, Co Laois, is seen as very much in touch with the grassroots. He is the current chair of the IFA's livestock committee.

"There is going to be an election but what's needed right now is a small break from politics, to take the panic out of the situation," replied Henry when asked if he would run.

"There is still a lot of good in the organisation but the question is how do we put it back together?" Married to journalist Claire O'Brien, Henry is the youngest of the names currently being mooted for the top job.

Henry previously recorded a successful term as sheep chairman while his stint in livestock has been more challenging. He is very much a hands-on man who led the beef factory protests this time last year. It is believed that Henry favoured staying out on the blockade for longer - but was reined back in.

Jer Bergin


Jer Bergin is a team player, a strategist who does a lot of work behind the scenes.

He has been caught in the cross-fire, and faces questions from members over whether he, as part of the audit committee, could have done more to expose the pay issue earlier.

However, since elected national treasurer at the end of 2013, he has refused to sign off on the former general secretary Pat Smith's bonuses.

A drystock and tillage farmer, Jer came to prominence during the 2000 beef blockades when he was central to the action.

He was campaign manager for Padraig Walshe in his two bids for the presidency.

Mr Bergin and Mr Walshe are married to two sisters, Margaret and Ella Hennessy.

Jer has worked his way up through a variety of roles, and after being defeated by Eddie Downey he is not telling if he'll have another tilt at the top job.

Flor McCarthy


Flor McCarthy, a suckler and beef farmer from Kenmare, Co Kerry, told the Farming Independent that he "would be considering" running for the IFA presidency. "I will make up my mind after consulting with my family and also with my county," he said.

One thing that Flor believes would work in his favour is that he is coming in from outside the current leadership group.

Married to Mary and with four children, Flor considered running last time but eventually didn't. "The first job of whoever is elected is to rebuild the trust of farmers. Openness on a large scale is required.

"It will be a tough challenge, which I'd relish," he said.

Hardworking and personable, Flor is the current rural development committee chairman and is also involved in rural development matters in Kerry.

A former IFA county chair, he also represented Kerry on the livestock committee.

Potential general secretary contenders

Barry Bryan

Bryan Barry has spent most of his working life with the IFA, after studying politics, history and economics at UCD.

Given his many years as right-hand man to Mr Berkery, he was seen as one of the top contenders for the job of general secretary when Mr Berkery retired seven years ago.

As secretary to both the executive board of the IFA and FBD, there is very little at Bluebell that the Dublin native would not have been aware of.

For farmers, he was often the face that appeared on the lorries getting the crowd revved up before the main speaker - usually the IFA president - took to the stage.

He would be seen as a safe and capable pair of hands, although some would question if he has a forceful enough personality to control and persuade the many characters that an IFA boss needs on side, both inside and outside the walls of the Farm Centre.

Elaine Farrell

Elaine Farrell is part of the old guard in IFA headquarters, having served in several positions over the course of more than 20 years working as an executive with the organisation.

She hails from a tillage farming background near Castletownroche in Cork, but she also has family connections with a grain and agri-business concern in Mountbellew, Co Galway.

After graduating from an ag science degree in UCD, she started out in roles with both the sugar beet and forestry committees.

Her current role covers three areas, including retail and horticulture.

But it is as Oireachtas liaison executive that she is probably most active.

With much of her time spent ensuring the IFA is hard-wired into both government and opposition parties, she is one of the most well connected individuals in the lobby group.

Tom Tynan

The Kilkennyman's easy-going nature and likeability belies a keen knowledge of Irish and European farming and shrewd political judgement based on years of direct experience. His name alone would open political doors in Dublin, Brussels, and other EU capitals.

He is currently an adviser to Commissioner, Phil Hogan. Previously he advised Ivan Yates as Agriculture Minister in the 1994-97 Rainbow Coalition.

In all he has 17 years' experience in the global agri-business industry and is a former Teagasc board member. He was IAWS commercial director and later chief operating officer of marine oil maker Welcon AS.

Tynan's term advising Ivan Yates coincided with Ireland's 1996 EU presidency when Ireland faced the challenge of managing the BSE crisis. He was also executive secretary IFA milk committee and milk manager of Golden Vale plc.

Damien McDonald

Horse Sport Ireland chief executive Damien McDonald would be familiar to many in the IFA.

In a previous incarnation, he was head of Macra.

He also has strong knowledge of policies, something that will be key for a new general secretary, as he was Macra's agriculture policy office.

He then went on to have a successful tenure as chief executive of the organisation.

In 2007, he left Macra for HSI where he has developed strategies for expanding the Irish sport horse industry.

He is used to dealing with a variety of organisations and varying views as HSI has 17 members from a across the equestrian disciplines and breeding industry

Mr McDonald is from a farming background in Crossabeg, Co Wexford.

He holds an MA in Economics from UCD, and also has considerable experience of voluntary and sporting organisations.

Indo Farming


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