IFA refuse to reveal top salaries despite grassroots pressure

IFA President Eddie Downey with Alan Coleman MCC and President West Cork IFA Richard Connell at the West Cork IFA 60th anniversary dinner dance at the Parkway Hotel, Dunmanway. Picture Denis Boyle
IFA President Eddie Downey with Alan Coleman MCC and President West Cork IFA Richard Connell at the West Cork IFA 60th anniversary dinner dance at the Parkway Hotel, Dunmanway. Picture Denis Boyle

Louise Hogan and Martin Ryan

IFA president Eddie Downey has moved to defend the association as issues over remuneration for top staff have again been raised at branch meetings and association anniversary celebrations.

"If you want the truth on what has been said or done over the last year and a half of my term as your president bring me to your executive and I will gladly respond to every question," Mr Downey said at a anniversary event in Limerick last week.

His comments came after a proposal calling for the salary package of the IFA general secretary Pat Smith to be disclosed to the national executive council was rejected before a heated council meeting.

The IFA has refused to confirm the salary package of Mr Smith after former IFA deputy president and long-standing member, Derek Deane, claimed before the council that he had heard Mr Smith was earning in excess of €400,000, including pension contributions and provision for a car.

Mr Deane said a figure of close to €300,000, plus a pension contribution and car was "being widely mentioned for 2014" for an organisation with a budget of €12m.

He said such a figure would be far higher than comparable salaries with the secretary general of the Agriculture Department earning €185,000 for overseeing a €1bn budget.

Concerned farmers have called for transparency on senior pay levels within the IFA at county meetings throughout the country.

However, addressing the celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the organisation at Adare, Limerick, Mr Downey claimed the matters raised in relation to Mr Smith's pay package were "uncorroborated" and "unsubstantiated and should be ignored".

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He said some people had become "angry" after they were "discommoded" when the voting at the national meeting did not fall in their favour.

However, Mr Deane told the Farming Independent that "transparency" was paramount in the IFA and farmers have "to know where every penny they contribute goes".

Mr Deane said in the show of hands on the vote on the pay matter, around seven had voted in favour, around 20 had voted against and over 20 had abstained from voting.

The Carlow IFA county chair said he was raising concerns over accountability and transparency within the organisation, following the resignation of veteran chief economist Con Lucey from the IFA's audit committee last year.

Accountancy standards

It is understood Mr Lucey had pointed out last year that under new accountancy standards, the remuneration of key management figures would have to be recorded in accounts. The IFA said a decision has yet to be taken on this.

Meanwhile, West Cork chairman Richard Connell told the Farming Independent that people "want answers" on the matter, while Roscommon chair John Hanley said it goes to the core of the "accountability".

Paddy Denning, from the Laragh branch of the Cavan council, said the county held a well-attended urgent meeting at the weekend where many expressed concerns about the salaries' issue.

He said it was hard for members to go out and collect monies from members with this issue ongoing.

Mr Denning said they had written to the national executive council seeking an emergency meeting and had also passed a motion calling for the remuneration package of the general secretary to be made known to the executive.

In Monaghan, the county chair Brian Treanor said the issue was not being raised "on the ground".

John Bambrick in Kilkenny said "little interest" had been shown in it with more concerns about the "price of milk and grain".

Responding to the grassroots views, Mr Downey added that the issue of a remuneration committee and the general secretary's pay has been discussed in detail at the executive council which voted for a strengthened committee to deal with the pay and conditions.

Mr Downey said the motion to publish the general secretary's pay was "strongly rejected" and the remuneration committee will meet in the next few weeks and take on board all the views from members before reporting back to the Council.

He said the IFA was an "extremely well-run organisation" with robust management structures and voluntary oversight.

The national executive council meeting approved setting up the remuneration committee to oversee the pay package of Mr Smith and the IFA president.

It will be chaired by the treasurer Jer Bergin and it will also include former Glanbia chief executive John Moloney and the IFA president.Mr Lucey had recommended the setting up of a remuneration committee but neither the general secretary or the president be on the committee.

The IFA confirmed the president would sit on it but would stand down when his pay was discussed.

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