Wednesday 26 October 2016

'Honesty, integrity cost me my job' - ex-IFA boss

Claire McCormack

Published 20/09/2016 | 02:30

Eddie Downey: proud of what he achieved in the IFA Picture: David Conachy
Eddie Downey: proud of what he achieved in the IFA Picture: David Conachy

The former president of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) Eddie Downey has said his "honesty and integrity" cost him his job.

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Mr Downey stepped down from the position last year, following the controversy over the salary of former CEO Pat Smith - whose pay package amounted to almost €1m in 2013 and 2014.

Although Mr Downey admits he was aware of "the sort of salary" Mr Smith was on, he says he didn't set it and intended to review it once a remuneration committee was in place.

He believes he was made the scapegoat in the fall-out.

"Political people in IFA looked to see 'how can I protect my back here?' Each one of them individually. They didn't think 'how can we collectively protect the organisation?'

"I brought an integrity and an honesty to the job - but that integrity and honesty has cost me the job," he said.

Mr Downey says he felt he had no choice but to stand down as he no longer had the support of some senior officers within the ranks.

"If you were to ask me today why did I stand down? I don't actually know, other than I felt there was nobody there.

"I couldn't rely on the immediate officers or key staff, and if I didn't have the support of them, I simply couldn't continue in the job".

"I regret the whole situation and how it was dealt with. In the heat of the moment, I didn't see any other option. If I continued I would've spent the last two years of my presidency explaining," he said.

"There were people who wanted me to stand aside but if I'd stood my ground and fought my battle I'd still be president of the IFA. There is no doubt in my mind because I had no difficulty explaining anything that was done or that had to be done."

Mr Downey agreed to a severance package of €1m plus €1m pension payments

On top of the anguish of losing his job, his mother, Josie, passed away last spring.

"Obviously that was another huge trauma, it probably distracted us from the whole IFA thing and allowed the family to re-adjust to a different position. It brought me back into reality" he said.

While Mr Downey is still adjusting to life since standing down from the IFA, his wife Mary, daughter Alice and son Patrick are happy to spend more time with him.

"My family didn't like me being the president of IFA because I was never around, I was always gone.

"They actually hated the IFA from that point of view but they were very proud of the job I was doing," he said.

He continues to take great pride in the work he achieved with the IFA, particularly his work on the land-leasing deal and succession planning. "I'm very proud of my time in IFA right to the last second . . . I don't think I'm the villain of the piece," he said.

Irish Independent

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