IFA candidates feel the heat over beef protests

Presidential candidates come under fire from grassroots at hustings on association's back-seat role in factory protests

Damaging absence: The IFA has been criticised for failing to lead the recent beef protests. Photo: Hany Marzouk
Damaging absence: The IFA has been criticised for failing to lead the recent beef protests. Photo: Hany Marzouk
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

The founding fathers of IFA would be appalled that the farm organisation didn't lead the recent beef protests, farmers told presidential candidates at the recent election hustings in Cork.

One farmer questioned the unity of IFA claiming it was in a "disaster" situation.

"Never before has the farming industry needed strong representation more," the farmer said.

"It seems to me that the IFA isn't giving that and hasn't given that - we need only look to the beef crisis to see that it took a bunch of independent, motivated farmers to form the Beef Plan group," the farmer said.

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"It's incredible to think that we had the biggest crisis facing this industry in decades, and the IFA wasn't leading.

"Years ago those founding fathers would've been appalled to think that it wasn't the IFA leading at that stage."

Candidate Angus Woods said the IFA would only make the "right decisions at the right time" and defended the organisaton's decision not to take part in the factory protests.

"In terms of why we didn't lead out the protests, back in 2014 when IFA did lead out a protest we were €300/hd behind the UK price; when these led out we were on average €20 behind the UK price," he said.

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"It would be wrong of me as livestock chairman to ignore facts as they are and bring our membership out."

However, his rival Tim Cullinan said the IFA was in a "mess" and needed to work on bringing back in members.

"On one evening there were three people elected at the gates of three different factories and they almost had as much power as we did inside in a room, and we see what came out of that room. Nothing came out it," he said.

"We have the biggest and best association; we accept there was a breakaway and damage done."

The third candidate, John Coughlan called for reform of the organisation, with a committee structure that works on the ground.

"Without a doubt reform of the organisation will have to happen," he said. "We have a committee structure in IFA that will work if that is on the ground as well.

"County meetings are not working the way they should. The communication is not coming to our members, we're meeting the same 20 or 30 farmers at meetings. We need to get out to meet farmers at branch level."

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