Farm Ireland

Sunday 19 November 2017

IFA bans 'war chests' to end 'horrendous' expenditure in presidency race

Candidate Henry Burns
Candidate Henry Burns

Martin Ryan

IFA presidential election campaign 'war-chests' have been outlawed by the organisation as part of a bid to end the "horrendous" expenditure incurred by candidates in previous elections.

For the first time, candidates are barred from soliciting, or accepting contributions from businesses or co-ops. Large fundraising events are also outlawed.

The new procedures, under which reasonable expenses incurred by the candidates will be reimbursed by IFA has been welcomed by candidates and previous participants in IFA elections.

Former deputy president, Ruaidhri Deasy, said election expenditure had "become horrendous" for candidates.

It is estimated that over €1m in total was spent by candidates for the presidency, deputy presidency and regional chairmen positions in IFA elections in recent years.

"I have heard of individual candidates for the presidency having put together 'war chests' in excess of €150,000 for election campaigns. The spend had become scandalous - it is not tolerable," said Mr Deasy.

"When I went for election it cost me a considerable amount of money out of my own pocket in addition to what was raised though fundraising and we got some money from IFA HQ. I think it was about €25,000," he said.

Mr Deasy said that IFA should ban posters "because they are making the election too political".

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An IFA spokesman confirmed "vouched expenses" incurred by candidates will be covered.

Henry Burns has ruled out any outside funding for his presidency bid and has also turned down offers of sponsorship and will not undertake any fundraising activity.

"Reasonable eligible expenses will be reclaimed from IFA under rules agreed," he said but added that finding the cash will mean significant sacrifices from the family and the farm.

He doesn't expect the campaign to cost as much as previous campaigns.

Flor McCarthy said that the change "is good for the organisation" but added that the Association must put funding in place to allow all farmers, whether big or small, to run for senior office.

He said he had "a great team of volunteers who are giving their time to support me for IFA president" and said he expects reasonable costs will be covered by IFA.

Joe Healy confirmed that he had accepted no sponsorship or donations for his campaign.

"IFA has given a verbal commitment to cover campaign travel costs and vouched expenses, and any additional expenditure will be covered by myself," he said.

The next public debate between the presidential candidates takes place in the Parkway Hotel, Dunmanway tomorrow night at 8pm.

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