IFA accused of attempting to shut down dissenting voices
Published 18/12/2013 | 02:30
A LEADING IFA member in Mayo accused the farm body's head office of not listening to the concerns of ordinary in the west of Ireland.
Former Mayo and national IFA chairperson Michael Holmes said disaffection with the farm body was far more widespread than the association would admit.
The Belmullet farmer also claimed that the organisation was seeking to shut down dissident voices rather than address the concerns raised.
His comments follow an attempt by IFA head office to force a Co Roscommon branch to cast a ballot in the IFA election.
Granlahan branch voted not to cast a ballot in the IFA election, but IFA leaders attempted to re-run the vote in the branch last week. However, the effort failed as a quorum was not reached because only four people registered to vote on the second night.
The response from IFA president John Bryan on Midwest Radio to the protest vote drew a huge reaction in the region, with hundreds of texts and phone calls from farmers into the Tommy Marren show.
"We got more feedback on this interview than anything we've covered over the last five months," said Mr Marren. "He (Mr Bryan) was very dismissive of Granlahan, claiming it was just an isolated incident and everything is fine in the west," said Mr Holmes.
The Mayo county councillor said that the problems within the IFA in the west could not be easily dismissed.
"How else do you explain a registered letter of complaint to John Bryan with 840 signatures from over 12 branches in the region?" said Mr Holmes.
The councillor said that he spends a lot of his time trying to stop local farmers from withdrawing their IFA membership.
"The farmers in the east might be delighted if they did, and we just disappeared, but I believe that we are better off fighting for our voices to be heard from within," he said.
"The west feels badly at the moment. The decision by IFA head office to re-run the vote (in Granlahan) appears very heavy-handed to the people in the west.
"Every organisation has its problems, but if you don't accept that there is a problem and start talking about it, it becomes a bigger one," said Mr Holmes.
Former secretary of the Granlahan IFA branch Gerry Coffey claimed that the IFA were putting members under pressure to get their own way.
"I've really seen a different side to the IFA this week. They were doing all in their power to shut us up," he said.
The Galway-based auctioneer said that the organisation was failing to represent smaller farmers and that the time had come for an alternative organisation.
"They claim they have strength through unity, but unity at what price? We've been sold a pup on the carve up of Pillar I because there's no use in going into a bank looking for a loan and offering a REPS payment as collateral. If its not the SFP (single farm payment), the bank isn't interested," he claimed.