Farm Ireland

Sunday 19 November 2017

ICSA chief faces battle to keep job

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

A leadership battle has erupted within the ICSA, with two senior members of the farmer organisation challenging current president Gabriel Gilmartin for the post.

ICSA officials confirmed that Marion Condren and John Flynn lodged nomination papers last Friday, sparking the leadership contest.

Mr Gilmartin was elected president two years ago and is entitled to remain in office for three two-year terms.

However, last Friday's events mean that he is now facing a bruising electoral battle to hold onto power within the drystock farmer body.

The two challengers are senior members of the organisation. Ms Condren hails from The Swan in Laois and is the national executive representative for the county. She was also the national treasurer for six years.

Mr Flynn, a native of Co Leitrim, is currently the Connacht/Ulster vice-president and was formerly the ICSA rural development chairman.

Ms Condren is viewed by ICSA sources as the more serious challenger of the two.

Her nomination papers were signed by Paul Brady, from Cavan, who is the current sheep chairman, and Dermot Kelliher, from west Cork, who is the suckler chairman.

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A cattle and sheep farmer, with strong interest in the equestrian sector, she was described by one member of the organisation as "very polished".

Ms Condren is expected to attract strong support from the midlands beef finisher constituency within the ICSA.

However, the backing of Mr Kelliher and Mr Brady shows that support for her will not be confined either to that particular grouping or area.

Rumblings within the organisation from members of the beef finisher wing stem from the damaging split last year between the national beef committee and the national executive of the ICSA.

The leadership of the beef committee publicly questioned the national executive's support of the quality payment system (QPS) for cattle.

This led to the ousting of two senior members of the beef committee and provoked a protracted dispute within the association.

However, one source within the ICSA said that while the QPS controversy had "left a bad taste", it was not the sole reason for the current heave.

He also pointed out that Mr Gilmartin remained extremely popular with large sections of the ICSA membership, particularly the west of Ireland suckler and sheep farmers.

It is understood that Mr Gilmartin intends to defend his position vigorously and a lively campaign is expected.

The vote for presidency of the ICSA is confined to the 110 or so members of the organisation's national executive. It will take place on November 2.

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