Controversy causes resentment in the ring

Farmers gather for cattle sales at Milford Mart in Co Donegal
Farmers gather for cattle sales at Milford Mart in Co Donegal
Colm McLaughlin at the mart yesterday

Greg Harkin

When you step into the ring at a mart almost anywhere in Ireland, you're usually entering one of the most conservative spheres in Irish society.

But not yesterday. And not in Milford, Co Donegal, as hundreds of farmers jostled for position for the latest cattle sales.

They were there to buy and sell, trying to scrape a living out of an industry with more ups and downs than the rides at Tayto Park.

There was hardly room to wink at the auctioneer, never mind tap the side of your head, but there was a good deal of frowning too - at the pay scandal gripping the Irish Farmers' Association.

Many farmers are furious at the pots of gold at the end of the IFA executive rainbow.

And many of them are no longer willing to fund it after what most of them refer to as 'The Controversy'.

Around 1pc of mart transactions go directly to the IFA.

"I've cancelled that," said John McDaid, who keeps cattle on his 100-acre farm outside Ramelton.

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"I feel the top boys have lost touch with the grassroots anyway. Pat Smith was a smart man, but his salary was outrageous.

"I knew all the old farmers around here and they would be turning in their graves today at this."

Johnny Weir, who farms 300 acres near Lifford, said he has also stopped paying mart commissions to the IFA.

"What was he (Smith) doing to earn that sort of money, when farmers are really struggling to exist and survive?

"We have farmers committing suicide because they can't go on any more.

"No one here is in farming to get rich, and we all know that, but it seems the top table of the IFA were the only ones getting rich."

It was a sentiment that was repeated all day in the mart café.

John McBride said: "We've had Rehab and politicians exposed for their big salaries - but we never expected this from our own."

Irish Independent

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