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Wednesday 28 June 2017

Grassroots register their silent protest

Just one in three IFA members vote in presidential election

Prior to the election IFA National Chairman Jer Bergin urged people to vote. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke.
Prior to the election IFA National Chairman Jer Bergin urged people to vote. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke.

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Less than one in three members of the Irish Farmers' Association are estimated to have voted in the association's presidential elections.

Early tallies from senior officers nationwide estimate the number of farmers casting their ballot has slumped significantly to approximately 25,000 of the 75,501 voting members.

The outcome of the election has been described as "too close to call" by veteran IFA officials ahead of the final count today.

Apathy and complacency among the membership are being cited by branch officers as some of the reasons for the low turnout in the elections prompted by the crisis that saw former general secretary Pat Smith leave the organisation after it emerged his pay package amounted to almost €1m over two years.

Former President Eddie Downey also stepped down after the pay controversy erupted late last year.

Some branches told the Farming Independent their members were "fed up" with the revelations about the IFA, while others said the busy spring period was a factor in the low turnout.

Factors

IFA national chairman Jer Bergin said there were a number of factors affecting the turnout - including the spring workload.

Turnout throughout the country has varied widely, ranging from lows of 20-25pc in some areas to almost 100pc in others.

Estimates for the overall turnout at around 24-25,0000 compare poorly with the 31,730 who voted in the last presidential election in 2013.

The highest turnouts were recorded in the candidates' home counties.

The numbers who voted in Munster were estimated to reach 45pc. It is the only region to have had an election for regional chairman and this added to the pressure to get voters out.

Some observers felt this could benefit Kerry's Flor McCarthy who has been seen as the outsider of the three candidates since the campaign began. It is understood voting is tight between the frontrunners, Galway's Joe Healy and Laois farmer Henry Burns.

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