Financial woes top of list for new IFA president as membership fees go up

Director general Damian McDonald got €185,350. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Director general Damian McDonald got €185,350. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

The IFA's new president faces an immediate challenge in tackling the organisation's finances on his first day in the job after his election today.

The latest accounts for the IFA show the farming organisation has an operating deficit of €246,000 as counting gets under way today to elect its 16th president.

Last Friday the association's national council approved an increase in its membership fees from next year by €10.

The association's consolidated accounts, up to March 31, 2019, show that its income at €15.9m, down from €16.2m for the previous 12 months. The 2018 deficit came after the association was hit with a €1.4m legal settlement with its former general secretary Pat Smith.

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Its latest accounts, which were presented to the association's executive council on Friday, show that income at the association was €15.9m for the year, down from €16.2m in 2018, while staff costs at the association are €5.3m.

Director general Damian McDonald was paid €185,350, while a three-person executive management team have salaries totalling €412,639 - down from €458,260.

The average remuneration of the top 15 staff in the association, after the executive management, was €99,047.

The association's president has a €120,000 salary, including board fees from FBD and Bord Bia, which brought down the IFA payment to its president to €57,000.

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A notable part of the association's income, a levy collected from farmers, was back from €3.196m to €3.116m.

Hundreds of the association's members will gather today in Dublin at the Castleknock Hotel where more than 20,000 votes cast over the past few weeks, will be counted to elect a new president and deputy president - a turnout as low as 30pc. In a race that has been considered too close to call since polling started on November 25, voting has been reported as variable and poor by insiders. It's expected there will not be a clear winner after the first count.

"All three candidates will be optimistic rather than confident going into the count," said one IFA stalwart.

Despite the expectation of many that there will be a strong first-preference vote for Tipperary man Tim Cullinan, opinion is divided on whether he can build up a sufficient lead to stave off a second-count surge from John Coughlan or Angus Woods.

Battle

The pair are likely to be in a neck-and-neck battle to avoid elimination following the first count.

But while the campaign rhetoric has been some of the most dramatic heard in an IFA presidential election, it seems to have failed to excite the electorate.

All signs point to a historically low turnout.

However, in recent years the association has been hit by internal strife and a host of breakaway groups. These groups have eroded the IFA's ability to dominate farm politics.

The most significant and damaging splinter from the IFA has been the emergence of the Beef Plan Movement.

It struck at the heart of the IFA organisation by taking decisive action when it shut down beef processors for weeks this summer.

Irish Independent


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