IFA moves closer to filling its top job as first round interviews take place

Former IFA General Secretary Pat Smith with former IFA President Eddie Downey. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Former IFA General Secretary Pat Smith with former IFA President Eddie Downey. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

The IFA has moved a step closer towards filling its Director General role, almost a full year since its former General Secretary Pat Smith resigned.

It is understood that at least four people were interviewed today as part of a process that has been overseen by KPMG.

The new role was created when the former general secretary role was split in two on the recommendation of the IFA’s former Chief Economist Con Lucey, Director General and General Secretary.

While the IFA has remained tight lipped about the candidates, which have been whittled down from over 20 in recent weeks, it is widely acknowledged that only one internal candidate remains in the mix.

However, it is understood that at least one former IFA staff member is also on the short list, while a high profile industry figure is also believed to be in contention. The interview panel, which is led by the IFA President Joe Healy, comprises two other IFA members along with a representative from KPMG and a leading industry figure. 

Next month, the IFA is a full year with a vacancy at the top of its staff and one insider says it could be the New Year before the role is filled as a second round of interviews is anticipated and a possible time lag before the successful candidate can take up the role. 

The salary for the role is to be determined and published, but is expected to be considerably less than Pat Smith was paid. Smith was paid €535,000 in 2013 including a €150,000 pension contribution, a €60,000 bonus and a company car and he received €452,484 in 2014.

One of the first issues the new Director General will have to address is the IFA's income. While the Association decided to continue its two-pronged levy and membership income stream, both have been hit over the past 12 months.

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The IFA has over 200 levy collecting partners across all sectors and levies contributed over €4.7m to IFA in 2015.

The Association published figures in March that showed that revenue from levies was down 12pc and would cost the association €564,000 over the course of the year.

Then, in August, the Larry Goodman-owned ABP Group of meat factories wrote to farmers to say it was to stop the automatic collection of farm organisation levies and offered farmers the option to 'opt in' to levy collection. IFA reacted by instructing ABP to stop collecting all levies, a move that IFA has admitted is costing the association in the region of €250,000.

The complete figures around the drop in income won't be known until the new year when IFA will present its accounts, but in the meantime the association has only saved on one, albeit large, salary.

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