Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 19 October 2017

Viewpoint: Go to your local IFA hustings for a taste of real politics

Labour leader Joan Burton flanked by IFA Acting General Secretary Bryan Barry and IFA National Chairman Jer Bergin during her visit to Bluebell last week. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke.
Labour leader Joan Burton flanked by IFA Acting General Secretary Bryan Barry and IFA National Chairman Jer Bergin during her visit to Bluebell last week. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke.
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

The hustings for the IFA presidential election have been pretty tumultous affairs to date.

Those of us who travelled to Lawlor's Hotel in Dungarvan last Thursday night rather than tuning into the General Election party leaders' television debate definitely chose by far the livelier show.

Many of the farmers attending the presidential debates are taking opportunity to ask probing questions of the organisation and its potential new leaders faced with the tough task of winning back farmers' trust.

It appears the 29 hustings are going to act as a conduit - in a way that the county meetings failed to do so - for all the anger, hurt and frustration felt by many long-standing IFA members over the recent pay controversy.

The three presidential candidates, Flor McCarthy, Joe Healy and Henry Burns, and the three deputy candidates - Nigel Renaghan, Richard Kennedy and Pat Farrell - have heard vocal criticism of the organisation from farmers demanding real change.

Salaries

In Waterford, the former IFA national dairy chairman Kevin Kiersey clearly voiced the frustrations farmers feel over the whole pay controversy as he demanded disclosure on salaries and other remuneration paid to past presidents and Michael Berkery who served as IFA general secretary for over 25 years.

Other farmers claimed there is an east/west divide in the IFA, while others wanted total clarity on the levies being collected for the IFA by factories, dairies and marts.

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Concerns have been raised over the pereceived lack of clout of the under-pressure tillage sector in the organisation.

There is clearly a lot of anger out there.

Perhaps, the more outspoken farmers at these hustings are a minority but they could also be voicing the opinions of a silent majority. Only time will truly tell.

It is clear from the probing questions on the levies, on past pay within the IFA and on where the reform programme is really going that they won't be satisfied with mere window dressing.

They are looking for detailed answers from the candidates on how they will tackle the reform of the organisation.

All of the candidates need to spell out more clearly their plans for reform to help instil confidence that the controversy we witnessed last year will never arise again.

And remember the hustings are only really hotting up with plenty more to go. Judging by the frustrations and concerns expressed to date by rank and file members, the IFA thas a long way to go in winning back the trust of farmers.

Indo Farming