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Tuesday 26 September 2017

Presidential hopefuls kick off 10-week race to be crowned Macra's 36th leader

Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture Andrew Doyle, candidate Odile Evans and former Macra president Thomas Honner
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

"It's Odile or No Deal" is a mantra set to be waxed lyrical at many upcoming Macra na Feirme events as the race for top office heats up.

Last Friday, Odile Evans of Johnstown/Coolgreany Macra on the Wicklow/Wexford border officially kicked off her campaign to be crowned the 36th president of the rural youth organisation.

She will run against Corkman James Healy in what is tipped to be a very exciting and competitive battle for votes over the next 10 weeks.

Fine Gael TD and Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle, attended Odile's launch at the Woodenbridge Hotel in the Garden Country - the oldest hotel in Ireland.

Former Macra president Thomas Honner, local Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil councillors, and a strong contingent of members from numerous Leinster-based clubs also showed support for the highly accomplished candidate.

Dressed in stately attire and glistening jewellery, the 23-year-old, who is current Leinster Vice President and National Treasurer of Macra na Feirme, told members she would "hit the ground running" if elected in April.

After joining her local club at just 17, Odile has competed in drama, farm skills, debating and indoor soccer. She represented her club in the prestigious Queen of the Land and Miss Macra competitions. The UCD ag science graduate also played a key role in Johnstown/Coolgreany claiming the 'Club of the Year' title in 2012.

The dairy farmer, and journalist with the Irish Farmers Journal, also quickly moved through various official roles from club to county level and says she "found her niche" on national council over the last two years.

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"I've met the most enthusiastic young people this country has to offer all the way from Birr to Ballymurn and Callan to Hill 16.

"I've been on trips to Brussels to meet the Commissioner for Agriculture, and last year I went on a trade mission to South Africa led by Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed."

Developing the organisation and championing the young farmer agenda is central to her vision.

"We need a leader that not only has integral knowledge of the sector but also a good working relationship with those in it.

"I understand the challenges facing our organisation, Irish agriculture and our country and there is a need for a voice of young farmers and a voice of rural youth, and I believe I am the best person to be the voice of our members."

Minister Doyle described Odile as very impressive. "She has been engaged at every level and she understands the structure and principles of Macra," he said.

Contender from Cork

Down south, rebel contender James Healy of Donoughmore Macra officially declared his intention to lead the farm organisation.

Over recent weeks, James, whose club claimed the distinguished ‘Club of the Year’ title in 2015, has been on a far-reaching trail of the country, attending Macra events in the Leinster, Munster and north-west regions.

Speaking at his launch in Murray’s Bar, Macroom, Co Cork, James (above) told members about his vision for the organisation.

“Macra has always offered huge opportunities for personal development and we must continue to ensure every member has the chance to capitalise on their membership experience and reach their full potential.”

The former Munster vice-president believes his vast experience in a variety of roles at national, county and club level will stand to him if elected, particularly when facing challenges on CAP reform negotiations, finances of the organisation and growth of membership.

James thanked all members of Macra, particularly in his own region, for their support.

Members of many Munster-based clubs took to social media to back the candidate, tweeting that they have thrown their shoulder to the “#teamjameshealy wheel”.

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