IFA salary controversy: €2m golden handshake forces Downey to quit
€2m 'golden handshake' for former secretary general Smith
The embattled president of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) resigned from his role as leader of the powerful lobby group last night, as it emerged farmers are gearing up for a court challenge over a €2m 'golden handshake' for the former general secretary.
An emergency meeting of the country's largest farm body heard the exit package for Pat Smith - including €1m up front - had been agreed by Mr Downey.
Mr Downey, who earlier this week 'stepped back' from his €147,000-a-year role as a review into pay and corporate governance issues got under way, said his decision to permanently resign was a "difficult" one, but was taken in the best interests of the association he has served for 25 years.
The IFA's executive council has now given the green light for the election of Downey's replacement after 17 hours of talks ended at 4.30am this morning. During an emergency meeting motions seeking the executive board's resignation were tabled, but were later parked.
Earlier, angry county chairmen had voted to challenge the exit package for Mr Smith in the courts, as deputy general secretary Bryan Barry provided the details of the package to the emergency meeting of the national council. He revealed that Mr Smith's package included €1m up front and €100,000 a year for 10 years.
The meeting was told it had been agreed between Mr Downey and the general secretary Mr Smith as he resigned last week.
Asked if he would like to comment on the executive council meeting, Mr Smith said he would be adhering to the "confidentiality agreement" reached.
Mr Downey said last night: "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.