Championships signal start of race for IFA presidency
Published 27/09/2013 | 04:00
THE National Ploughing Championships signalled the start of the all-out race to be the next president of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA).
The two candidates for the top job, Eddie Downey (pictured right) and Jer Bergin, have spent the last three days canvassing support.
Although voting doesn't take place till December, Mr Downey (52), who's currently IFA deputy president, said it was a crucial canvassing opportunity.
"This is the litmus test. If you get the message right here, and you get the people right here, this election rolls on."
He said he would spend the next two months shaking hands with and getting to know everybody in all 900 IFA local branches as he had done in coming from behind to secure the deputy position four years ago.
"I'm going to be honest, straight-forward. I'll tell people what the reality is. I've done that for 20 years and I've got to this position on that basis. I'm not going to change now."
His opponent Mr Bergin (49) from Ballacolla, Co Laois, who is currently vice president of IFA and has been involved in IFA for 20 years, said it was vital to put the hours in.
"I'm first in, in the morning, last out at night. I'm a firm believer in it. Persistence always pays.
"This is the first visible manifestation of the IFA election. It's been going on behind the scenes for the last number of months ... but this is the first time it comes into the public domain." He said he would be focusing on two things – farmers' incomes and farmers' rights.
Many people had expressed concern to him about cuts to farm schemes such as the agri-environmental scheme and the loss of the suckler cow welfare scheme.
The job does not carry a salary although the IFA pays for a farm manager to run the president's farm.
Outgoing president, John Bryan, refused to confirm rumours he will run for the European Parliament next year.