Thursday 27 October 2016

Louise Hogan: The IFA election has the hallmarks of being a contest unlike any other

Published 27/11/2015 | 00:00

This will be the first IFA president in the new era of ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’
This will be the first IFA president in the new era of ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’

What do you need to win an IFA election? Lots of souls willing to travel the high roads and by-roads. And this time, you may also need an extra edge - as it has all the hallmarks of being an election like no other.

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Aside from the hardcore IFA members willing to canvass for the votes despite a potential backlash in farmyards, there is going to be the added pressure of rebranding the organisation.

This will be the first president in the new era of 'transparency' and 'accountability'.

And timing may be key to who turns out to be the real frontrunner.

If Carlow chair Derek Deane does decide to throw his hat in the ring, then the faster the election looms for him the better, as he'll be able to ride the wave of being the person credited with bringing the €535,000 pay package of former general secretary Pat Smith to light.

But he may face the disadvantage of the smaller county potentially meaning a small committee to do all the legwork.

For other potential candidates - deputy president Tim O'Leary, and treasurer Jer Bergin - more time may prove a blessing.

More time may prove advantageous for dealing with potential questions from grassroots members on whether they could have done more to bring to light the pay levels for the top man. However, both have pointed out they were working behind the scenes.

Yet, the issue of timing will be left to the rules and privileges committee which will meet to advise the council on the best time frame and process for holding an election, while bearing in mind the rules.

There may be an appetite out there among farmers for the new president to have no link to the upper echelons of the IFA establishment such as the executive board.

This person will need a strong personality to survive the onslaught over the recent revelations.

They'll need to be good communicator - both a good speaker and a good listener - as they seek to rebuild the image of the lobby movement that is currently celebrating its 60th anniversary.

Traditionally, deep pockets and plenty of financial backing would have been seen as very important, as the election trail often involved canvassers setting foot in as many farmyards as they could manage.

With some often holding prominent launch nights, such as former president Eddie Downey who staged an event at Tayto Park.

However, if time is a factor on this occasion, then maybe the candidates might do well to conserve the petrol monies and target regional or county meetings.

With candidates already testing the waters behind the scenes, this election could swiftly gather steam.

Irish Independent

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