Farm Ireland

Saturday 17 February 2018

'I was thrown under a bus': ousted IFA boss Eddie Downey hits back

Eddie Downey
Eddie Downey

Elaine Keogh

Former president of the IFA Eddie Downey said he was "thrown under the bus" at a marathon meeting of farmers last week, but he does not regret his decision to resign.

Mr Downey was speaking for the first time since he stood down as the president of the organisation which is engulfed in acrimony over the pay and perks of its former general secretary Pat Smith.

He said he was speaking now "to put the record straight", and that he stood over all he had done.

He also said that he had approval, and did not act on his own, when reaching a controversial €2m severance agreement with Mr Smith.

However, when asked whose approval he had needed, he said: "I think there is enough reputational damage done to people; mine has been shattered, my family have suffered enough pain, I have no intention of inflicting pain on other people."

He insisted he only became aware of the full remuneration package of Mr Smith on November 19, and he acted on that information within hours.

Mr Smith received €535,000 in 2013, including a €150,000 pension contribution, a €60,000 bonus and a company car.

Recalling the events that began almost two weeks ago, he said: "I went into the financial controller's office. I said I wanted to see all the details surrounding the GS's salary and he replied, 'You won't like what you are going to see'. I was very worried when I heard that."

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He said he himself decided to resign during the crisis meeting of farmers that took place over 17 hours last week.

He did not attend that meeting as he had already stood aside from his role to allow former IFA chief economist Con Lucey to conduct a review. "I got word from the meeting that some of the facts surrounding my involvement surrounding the general secretary's departure were being misrepresented," he said.

"In a very fraught room with a lot of emotion - there was no way I could counteract the misrepresentations even if I had been there. The message I got was, I was thrown under the bus at the meeting."

Irish Independent