Executives should work 'solely for IFA' without side deals: review

Former IFA President Eddie Downey with Susan Ryan, executive secretary at the IFA. Photo: Frank McGrath
Former IFA President Eddie Downey with Susan Ryan, executive secretary at the IFA. Photo: Frank McGrath
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Executive staff in the IFA should be working "only" for the farm body after the wide-ranging review highlighted how some staff also get paid by the IFA's separate telecoms firm.

However, the wide-ranging review from former chief economist Con Lucey found executive staff pay in the IFA remains "broadly in line" with salaries in the civil service taking into account factors such as regular night meetings and the workload. Yet there is a wide gap between those at the top and bottom of the ladder.

It comes after several members of the full-time management staff of the farm body called on deputy president Tim O'Leary to ensure the "confidentiality" of staff salaries.

The letter sent to Mr O'Leary raised concerns ahead of the review that pay of executive staff might be made public.

The staff members warned that the association may be "exposing itself to potential liabilities" including "constructive dismissal, breaches of confidentiality, data protection breaches and professional damages" if remuneration was revealed.

The letter was sent late last month from the director of livestock Kevin Kinsella; rural development executive Gerry Gunning; Oireachtas executive Elaine Farrell; dairy executive Catherine Lascurettes; grain executive Fintan Conway; press officer Niall Madigan; digital media officer Brigid Fitzgerald; environment executive Thomas Ryan; fresh produce development officer Patrick Farrell; director of organisation James Kelly; aquaculture executive Richie Flynn; forestry executive Geraldine O'Sullivan and animal health executive Tomas Bourke.

Mr Lucey pointed out there would be "confidentiality" issues in the employer revealing salaries, as he pointed out they broadly matched the civil service. "However, the spread between top and bottom is wider in the IFA," Mr Lucey found.

He recommended that staff should be working "only for IFA", after arrangements have emerged where staff provide services for businesses such as IFA Telecom and get oaid.

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He said payments to staff representing the IFA on outside bodies should be taken into account when setting salaries.

The report pointed out former general secretary Pat Smith was a director of IFA Telecom, and received €35,000 in 2013.

The report said IFA director of organisation James Kelly got €35,000 from IFA Telecom in 2015, while financial controller Ken Heade got €30,000.

Jer Bergin, who was elected national treasurer, declined the fee in 2014 and 2015.

What Con Lucey's report recommends

  • My overall conclusion is that salary levels of IFA executive staff are broadly in line with those of the grades in the civil service with whom they interact, when all relevant factors are taken into account. However, the spread between top and bottom is wider in the IFA.
  • Future pay determination should continue to be the responsibility of the General Secretary/Chief Executive, in consultation with the President and Deputy President.
  • Ultimately, it is market forces that determine pay levels in the IFA. The IFA has to be able to recruit the best available talent from the public or private sector. Any move away from this is likely to have a negative impact.
  • Arrangements have emerged in recent years whereby some IFA staff provide services to separate but related businesses such as IFA Telecom and receive a payment in return. I believe that IFA staff should be working only for IFA, and that these arrangements should be reviewed. As regards payments to staff representing IFA on outside bodies, such payments should be taken into account in setting their salary levels.

Irish Independent

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