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Thursday 8 December 2016

IFA Executive Council survives motion of no confidence

'Golden handshakes' for former IFA presidents

Published 16/12/2015 | 02:30

IFA deputy president Tim O’Leary with acting general secretary Bryan Barry and former IFA economist Con Lucey at Farm Centre in Dublin.
IFA deputy president Tim O’Leary with acting general secretary Bryan Barry and former IFA economist Con Lucey at Farm Centre in Dublin.
John Bambrick, chairman of the Kilkenny branch of the IFA at the meeting.
Pat Murray, chairman of the IFA’s Wexford branch.
Padraig Walshe received a package worth €181,250, including a basic salary of €175,000, in 2009

A motion of no confidence in the executive board of the Irish Farmers Association has been defeated.

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The decision was reached close to midnight last night after the board met for nearly 12 hours to consider the report into the high pay revelations conducted by the IFA former chief economist Con Lucey.

A subsequent motion of no confidence in the deputy president Tim O'Leary and the IFA treasurer Jer Bergin was also defeated.

The decision followed the revelation that presidents of the crisis-hit Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) received 'golden ­handshakes' worth up to €175,000, or a year's salary, as they exited their posts.

The wide-ranging 44-page report from the IFA's trusted former chief economist Con Lucey pointed out the salaries had become removed from their original purpose of ensuring the president's farm did not suffer when they took on the new role.

It went on to show that former general secretary Pat Smith received €3.4m over seven years, including over €500,000 on three of the years and over €1m into his pension pot.

Mr Lucey, who stepped down from the IFA's audit committee 18 months ago citing alleged interference, pointed out it was difficult to see the justification for funding a 'Top Hat' early retirement scheme uniquely for the benefit of Mr Smith, and the payment of fees of up to €35,000 from IFA Telecom to the general secretary seemed "unjustified".

He pointed out €4.6m went into the IFA defined-pension fund to deal with a shortfall over a four-year period, with €1.2m going to Mr Smith alone and 34 others sharing €3.4m.

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The review follows a crisis within the farm body that saw the resignation of Mr Smith, after it emerged he received a salary package of almost €1m over two years, followed by former president Eddie Downey stepping down.

The review presented to the 53-member executive council by Mr Lucey set out a series of recommendations as the farm body tries to draw a line under the turmoil that has hit in recent weeks.

  •  It recommended the president should not be a member of the remuneration committee and an external expert with knowledge of pay levels be appointed.
  •  It highlighted a view that power in the organisation had been centralised and sought for the national committees to be restored as key structures.
  •  The general secretary should be described as chief executive, and a new post of secretary created with a high degree of independence.
  •  Future chief executives should be on flexible, fixed terms rather than permanent.
  •  A full set of financial accounts should be placed before the AGM.
  •  Payment to a president should be based on the cost of replacing labour and managing a farm.
  •  Payments to the president from outside bodies should be paid into IFA funds.

The review revealed past presidents had received ­termination payments as they exited the four-year posts, which were worth one year's remuneration.

It set out former president Mr Downey received €156,000 a year, excluding outside director fees, yet this was lower than his predecessors John Bryan, who received €169,400 in 2013, including €28,000 in IFA Telecom director fees, while Padraig Walshe received a package worth €181,250, including a basic salary of €175,000, in 2009.

Mr Lucey said payments to the president from outside bodies should be paid into IFA funds, with presidents invited onto the board of FBD Holdings with fees currently at €39,600.

There were mixed views as the meeting continued at IFA national headquarters in Bluebell, Dublin. However, the board survived the motion of 'no confidence' put forward by a number of counties calling for resignations after it was put before the council in a secret ballot. The council also voted to retain the deputy president Tim O'Leary and treasurer Jer Bergin. The executive board have been under pressure after nearly half of the IFA's county executives voted in favour of their resignation, with most of the remaining counties opting to hear the outcome of Mr Lucey's review before making up their minds.

Mr Downey, who recently claimed his reputation had been "shattered", sat in and is understood to have defended his actions in recent months after Mr Lucey delivered his report.

Irish Independent