New IFA president vows to 'rebuild trust' in farm body
Healy secures 'protest vote' in the wake of pay controversy
Published 20/04/2016 | 02:30
The new president of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) has called on all farmers to "unite" to move the farm body into a new era, after a pay controversy rocked it to its core.
Galway dairy and cattle farmer Joe Healy (49) appeared to have secured a 'protest vote' by IFA members looking for change. He said all farmers now needed to put their "shoulder to the wheel and work together".
Amid jubilant scenes, Mr Healy was elected on the first count, securing just over 50pc of the votes to deliver the top job west of the Shannon for the first time in 20 years.
"We've been through a tough period," said Mr Healy, who was viewed as an 'outsider', as he was not part of the key IFA national executive council. However, he vowed the organisation would come out of it "stronger".
The three candidates - Mr Healy along with Laois man and IFA livestock chair Henry Burns, and Kerry farmer and IFA rural development chair Flor McCarthy - all pledged changes to the organisation.
It followed revelations that former general secretary Pat Smith's pay package amounted to almost €1m over two years.
The former president Eddie Downey stepped down after controversy erupted last year.
"The first thing on the agenda and the priority always for the IFA is farm incomes and a margin there for farm families, as at the moment almost all commodities are selling below the cost of production," said Mr Healy, a former Macra na Feirme president and marts columnist with the 'Farming Independent'.