Contractor group wages war over running of PAC

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

A war of words has broken out between the Professional Agricultural Contractors of Ireland (PAC) and a splinter group called Farm Contractors of Ireland (FCI).

The breakaway group, headed up by former PAC chairman Peter Farrelly and Cork contractor Timmy O'Brien, claims that PAC was being unprofessionally run by its director, Tom Murphy.

"We never saw a set of accounts or a membership list for the last number of years, despite numerous requests," claimed Mr Farrelly, a Meath-based contractor.

"In addition, there appears to have been different charges for different members and even additional charges for members who approached PAC seeking advice or help dealing with repossession orders," he said.

However, Mr Murphy, PAC's director for more than 20 years, rejected the allegations.

"Peter Farrelly has seen the accounts and used membership lists provided by me to set up his breakaway group," he said.

"The membership fee is €260. To suggest anything else is simply mischievous. PAC has always been open and transparent."

Mr Murphy admitted that the organisation had been in a loss-making position for several years due to the "up and down nature of the membership".

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He resisted disclosing the actual membership on the basis that it was "sensitive information".

Clonmel-based founder member Michael Sheehan has stepped in to fill the role of PAC chairman.

In a statement issued by PAC, the organisation claimed that Mr Farrelly had been at odds with the association's policy for some time and that his departure came as no surprise.

"PAC could not condone Peter's single-minded theory that all repossessions should be defended and that he had the right as chairman to refer members in difficulty to his own solicitor rather than to the office.

"PAC policy is that each case is looked at on a confidential and individual basis with the main focus being, where possible, to keep the contractor in business," the statement said.

"In some situations, involving a solicitor at too early a stage can remove the ability to negotiate with financial institutions, as the case will go straight to the lender's legal department. Taking the legal route is of course also a very costly procedure," the statement added.

"We do not believe in table thumping, which may be initially impressive, but will not wash when you have to meet with top officials in government and other agencies," said Mr Murphy.

He also stated that he had never received any fees for his time with PAC other than travel and office expenses, and that he had no intention of walking away from the organisation. He is arranging a PAC meeting for all members in Horse and Jockey tomorrow evening.

Mr Farrelly was elected secretary of the new FCI, with Mr O'Brien as chairman, at a meeting in Portlaoise last Monday.

They had no new members as of last week, but Mr Farrelly said that it was their intention to employ a person to run the organisation on a day-to-day basis.

It is estimated that there are around 1,000 full-time contractors operating nationally.

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