Friday 9 December 2016

Ivan Yates: Why out-of-touch IFA can never go back to business as usual

Published 28/11/2015 | 02:30

No small potatoes: Eddie Downey, former IFA president, centre, with Michael Hoey of the Potato Federation, left, and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney
No small potatoes: Eddie Downey, former IFA president, centre, with Michael Hoey of the Potato Federation, left, and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney
Con Lucey

The IFA is engulfed in the worst public confidence crisis in its 60-year history - it has been rocked to its foundations. Every step of the way, since Co Carlow chairman Derek Deane read out a six-page letter at the Executive Council meeting on November 4 proposing a resolution seeking transparency of accounts and remuneration, the IFA leadership has been behind the curve. It has been left chasing its tail to catch up with the breach of trust between its head office in Bluebell and its 88,000 members.

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The rejection of that motion by 20 votes to seven (with 20 abstentions) revealed precisely how out of touch the collective officers and executives were with reality. The subsequent negotiations on the termination of Pat Smith's contract turned a crisis into a catastrophe. In fact, the mishandling of the affair was reminiscent of the Rehab revelations in the charity sector. At the core of this controversy is a cultural clash between a conglomerate of successful agribusinesses and the dedicated, loyal volunteerism of IFA farmers across the country.

The origins of the current crisis - how the most effective lobby group in the country came to such a pass - reach back to the mid-1960s.

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