IFA election too close to call as three contenders 'neck and neck'
Betting on presidential election suspended after flurry of bets for 'outsider' Cullinan
Voting got underway last night in one of the most important presidential elections in the IFA's history.
The organisation has been under unprecedented pressure in recent years amid internal strife, breakaway groups and financial problems.
Please log in or register with Farming Independent for free access to this article.
The opening of the polls for 944 branches comes after weeks of hustings around the country and has already been mired in controversy as Paddy Power confirmed to the Farming Independent that it suspended betting on the election over the weekend.
"Tipperary man Tim Cullinan was the outsider in the race according to our odds.
"However, following activity in this market he was cut to favourite before betting was subsequently suspended," a spokesperson for Paddy Power confirmed.
Cullinan's status as the outsider of the three candidates surprised some senior figures in the IFA, and informed sources last night said the race was still too close to call with the three candidates said to be neck and neck.
However, one area where there seems to be certainty is that the election turnout is likely to be among the lowest in the association's history.
Last week, the IFA launched an appeal to its 72,000 members to attend branch meetings and vote to elect a new president and deputy.
The three presidential candidates are John Coughlan from Buttevant, Co Cork; Cullinan from Toomevara; and Angus Woods from Barndarrig, Co Wicklow.
Brian Rushe from Co Kildare and Thomas Cooney from Co Cavan are contesting the deputy president position.
IFA insiders predict a record low turnout for election
IFA National Returning Officer Richard Kennedy encouraged farmers to attend the Association's 944 branch meetings in the 29 County Executives and vote for the positions of President and Deputy President.
"Our election gives every member the same say in choosing the next president.
"It's an important exercise in democracy and it affords farmers across all enterprises, and in every part of the country, an equal voice in deciding who is best placed to represent Irish farmers from 2020 on," he said.
However, IFA insiders fear that the turnout will be very low, for what is being seen by many as the most critical election of the organis-ation's history.
In 2016, when Joe Healy (pictured) was elected president, he received 14,122 first-preference votes to win by a landslide.
Then, some 28,000 members, or 38pc, turned out to vote, but insiders estimate that turnout could be as low as 25pc this time.