ICMSA boss can't reveal payments from Dairy Board

ICMSA president John Comer
ICMSA president John Comer

Ralph Riegel and David Raleigh

The head of the country's second largest farmers' union says he is not allowed to reveal how much he is paid to be a director of Ornua, which replaced the national dairy board.

Pressure is now mounting on John Comer, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), to say how much he receives for his work on the board of Ornua.

He was speaking at the ICMSA annual conference, where he said he was not prepared to divulge his full earnings or claimed expenses, and said to do so would be "nonsense".

He said he would only give "ball-park figures" and that he gets an "allowance" of less than €50,000, excluding expenses.

He said the annual allowance was "for replacement labour on my farm at home when I am representing the ICMSA, which is a full-time job".

"My allowance is less than €50,000 and I refuse to give the pounds, shillings and pence, because I think that's a step too far," he said. "Individuals have a right to some degree of privacy."

In relation to his role with Ornua, formerly known as the Irish Dairy Board, he said he would like to disclose his full earnings but is precluded doing so under existing rules. He said he wants to see this policy changed.

His comments come as Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) must now be totally transparent on all monies spent, as ministers admitted the vast scale of salaries had left them shocked.

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Public Reform Minister Brendan Howlin described the salary of the former IFA general secretary Pat Smith as "extraordinary".

It comes as it emerged the IFA warned Mr Smith he will have to pursue them in the courts for his €2m severance package.

The farm body has insisted the package agreed between Mr Smith and former president Eddie Downey, who had sought legal advice ahead of the negotiations, was not fully signed off amid concerns.

It has responded vehemently to Mr Smith's call to "stand good to its deal" and give the €1m upfront payment as part of the severance package to charity.

The IFA has insisted the package is not binding and it will take the matter to the courts if necessary.

It recently emerged Mr Smith received €535,000 in 2013 - including a €150,000 pension contribution - a €60,000 bonus and a company car. The IFA said Mr Downey earned a €147,000 salary from the IFA, with a further €30,000 in directors' fees for 2014 from insurer FBD - and €10,970 from Bord Bia on top.

Irish Independent

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