Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 24 June 2017

Eddie Downey resigns as IFA President

President of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) Eddie Downey
President of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) Eddie Downey
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

The President of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) resigned from his role, as an emergency meeting of the lobby group heard the former general secretary had received a €2m 'golden handshake'.

The meeting of the country's largest farm lobby group heard that the now former president Eddie Downey had agreed the package with Pat Smith as he stepped down from the role last week.

The county representatives from across the country voted to challenge the exit package for Mr Smith in the courts. The deputy general secretary Bryan Barry told the emergency meeting of the executive council that it included €1m upfront and €100,000 a year for 10 years.

An election for the role of president is now in the offing, as Mr Downey said his decision to permanently resign was a "difficult" one but was taken in the best interest of the association he has served for 25 years. 

Former secretary general of the IFA Pat Smith
Former secretary general of the IFA Pat Smith

Earlier this week, Mr Downey had stepped back from his €147,000 a  year role as a review into pay and corporate governance  issues got underway.

"In taking on the role of president of IFA, I did so on the same terms of all presidents who have had the honour of serving in this role before me. I made no demands or requests that I be treated any differently to former holders of the office," said Mr Downey as the Meath man resigned.

"My sole interest and motivation in taking on the onerous role as president of IFA was to work tirelessly and be judged by my record of delivery for Irish farmers here and in Brussels."

Mr Downey stated he had demanded the highest levels of governance and accountability within the IFA as he resigned the post.

"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 stated.

The emergency meeting of the national executive was held to try tackle the fallout after it emerged their former general secretary Mr Smith earned almost €1m over two years.

The pay and perks given to Mr Smith in his role from 2009 until his recent resignation are to be examined as part of a review by the IFA's former chief economist Con Lucey.

Mr Downey said the former chief economist should now be given the opportunity to complete his work comprehensively to ensure the IFA continues to be a "strong voice" for farmers in the sector. Mr Downey said the former chief economist should now be given the opportunity to complete his work comprehensively to ensure the IFA continues to be a "strong voice" for farmers in the sector.

It recently emerged Mr Smith received €535,000 in 2013 including a €150,000 pension contribution, €60,000 bonus and a luxury Audi company car.

The emergency meeting of the national council of the farm body heard Mr Smith's pension package had reached €2.7m a year ago when it was transferred from the IFA.

The IFA stated Mr Downey earned a €147,000 salary from the IFA, with a further €30,000 in directors fees for 2014 from insurer FBD and €10,970 from Bord Bia on top.

In addition to the earnings of almost €200,000, Mr Downey would have received expenses since taking up his role in January 2014.

No bonuses were paid in 2014, reducing Mr Smith's pay by €90,000 to €445,000 for his basic salary and pension top-up  after IFA treasurer Jer Bergin refused to sign off on the bonus for '14 and '15 until a new independent remuneration committee had been set up. A remuneration committee was recently approved but had yet to sit.

The IFA have also told farmers they can submit submissions to Mr Lucey at the email address conluceyreview@ifa.ie until Monday, December 7.

Online Editors