Just three candidates battle for top job in IFA as field is whittled down
Published 07/01/2016 | 02:30
The race is on to lead the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) out of the pay controversy, with just three entering the presidential fray.
In a day of twists and turns, a clear winner failed to emerge in the fight for the final and fourth spot for the top job in the farm body.
The pressure was on as the clock ticked down to yesterday's deadline as the last two potential runners - the current IFA deputy president Tim O'Leary and Carlow county chair and beef farmer Derek Deane - tried to secure enough support to enter the fray as the final candidate. In the end, the frantic phonecalls failed to deliver and both farmers were one short of the required support of six counties to take the final ticket.
Farmers will be asked to vote in the first two weeks in April on which of the three farmers - Laoisman Henry Burns, Galway's Joe Healy and Kerry native Flor McCarthy -they would like to see lead the organisation.
It will be a tough task ahead as many farmers have voiced their anger after it emerged former general secretary Pat Smith's pay package was worth almost €1m over two years.
Former president Eddie Downey, who stepped down from his post, said he had approval when reaching a controversial €2m severance agreement with Mr Smith as he left the organisation.
Henry Burns, whose role as IFA livestock chairman has seen him engage with farmers throughout the country, said his love for representing farmers had brought him into the race.
"There is obviously reuniting to be done," he said. "A lot can be achieved when we all work together."
Mr Burns said his work with both the sheep and beef sectors had given him a broad range of understanding of the different farm incomes. "It all comes back to farm income," he said, highlighting the difficulties.
Galway dairy and sheep farmer Joe Healy, a former Macra president and 'Farming Independent' mart analyst, said he would work towards restoring trust in the association and to "rebuild the credibility of the organisation and to focus on sustainable farm incomes".
Flor McCarthy, the IFA's rural development chair, was next to secure the nominations after Monaghan farmer Nigel Renaghan decided to run for deputy president and Tipperary's Tim Cullinan also dropped out.
Mr McCarthy said he would be working to "unite the whole organisation", while he would also be seeking increased funding to farm investment and GLAS schemes.
Nominations for candidates for the other key positions - including deputy president - will be sought in early February.
This comes after a lengthy meeting in IFA headquarters at which it was approved that all key positions, such as deputy president and regional chairs, would be reduced from a four-year term to two periods of two years.
It means all the positions will be opened to the grassroots to vote, with the current executive board able to run again for their current positions.
Under the code of conduct, the candidates have been discouraged from door-to-door canvassing and they will have to disclose any significant business interest outside of farming.
The runners are banned from soliciting or accepting funding or other benefits towards their campaigns. However, they can recoup vouched campaign expenses from the IFA. However, it is understood fundraisers were supporters purchase a ticket will still be permitted.