IFA's president Eddie Downey steps aside in pay crisis

Farm union to carry out independent review of level of salaries and packages

There have been calls for Eddie Downey, president of the association, to step down in the wake of the controversy
There have been calls for Eddie Downey, president of the association, to step down in the wake of the controversy

Louise Hogan and Darragh McCullough

President of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) Eddie Downey has stepped back from the country's most powerful farm lobby group, as it moved to review pay packages at the organisation to try to staunch the haemorrhage of members.

Leaders of the farm body have been flooded with angry calls from members threatening to leave the organisation after it emerged the former general secretary Pat Smith received a pay package of almost €1m over just two years.

Mr Downey, who has faced no-confidence motions in the wake of the revelations, apologised to members last night as he confirmed he would "step back" to allow a review of remuneration take place. The IFA confirmed the president was in receipt of €147,000 a year, while the deputy received €35,000.

In a bid to rebuild confidence among members, the IFA has asked its former chief economist Con Lucey to review and implement his recommendations on pay and transparency within the organisation.

"They want me to review the recommendations I have made already and to make any other recommendations in the whole area of transparency," Mr Lucey told the Irish Independent.

"Things happened very quickly - I've only spoken briefly with Bryan Barry, who is the acting general secretary.

"The hope is the past can be put to bed and we can start looking to the future."

Mr Lucey first raised concerns over transparency and accountability within the IFA as he resigned from the audit committee last year. In 2014, he had called for a remuneration committee to be established to review the pay of the two top office holders - the general secretary and the president.

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Mr Downey said he wished to give Mr Lucey and the association the time and space to thoroughly review the situation in relation to pay and would step back during the review.

"Mistakes have been made and I want to apologise for that. Steps have been taken to ensure that past mistakes are never repeated," said Mr Downey.

Deputy president Tim O'Leary, who will take over the functions of the president, said they were determined to rebuild the trust of members following the revelation over Mr Smith's pay package, which amounted to €535,000 in 2013, including a pension contribution of €150,000. He described the package as indefensible.

"Con Lucey will carry out a comprehensive review...There will be full transparency and accountability from now on," he said, adding the pay of any future general secretary will be disclosed in the annual accounts.

Speaking on Morning Ireland this morning, he also apologised repeatedly to the IFA's members.

"I think the salary of our general secretary has shocked all our members… I want to apologise," he said.

He added the he himself was shocked at the size of Mr Smith's renumeration package, which he believed would have been benchmarked off the salary of the secretary general of the Department of Agriculture. That salary is currently €185,000.

Mr O'Leary said that any settlement with Mr Smith will be published by the IFA.


Irish Independent

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