Farm Ireland

Friday 26 April 2019

Former IFA President Eddie Downey: Can I not tell the truth now?

Former IFA President says he's going to national council to have his say 'whether you want me or not'

Eddie Downey: proud of what he achieved in the IFA Picture: David Conachy
Eddie Downey: proud of what he achieved in the IFA Picture: David Conachy
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The fall-out from the Irish Farmers' Association €1.9m settlement with its former secretary general continues to rumble this week.

Former IFA president Eddie Downey has demanded that he be allowed air his version of events at a meeting of the organisation’s national council in IFA headquarters in Dublin. He had planned to attend tomorrow's (Thursday) meeting but that meeting has since been cancelled due to the weather condtions.

“I’ve waited long enough to tell the truth about what happened in that room,” he said of the night over two years ago when he signed off on a €2m severance deal with the then general secretary, Pat Smith.

It follows IFA accepting that it defamed Mr Smith after two legal actions were settled outside the High Court. The IFA confirmed that Mr Smith is to receive €1.55m in relation to his severance claim and €350,000 in relation to his defamation claim.

Mr Downey was addressing over 100 farmers attending a Meath IFA AGM in Navan on Monday night, where he claimed that he had been defamed by reports during the period when both he and Mr Smith stepped down from their roles at the head of the country’s largest farmer organisation which was engulfed in a pay controversy.

Mr Downey told the meeting that he was passed a ticking time-tomb when he became president. “The music stopped and I was holding the parcel.”

When details of the €2m severance deal for Mr Smith emerged, Mr Downey claimed that senior members of the IFA effectively “threw me under a bus”.

“Reports at the time said that Eddie Downey acted alone. This is not true. This is defamation,” he told the Meath IFA AGM.

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“All that I did that day was approved and at every step I sought and received approval. Why Mr President, can I not tell the truth now?” he asked the current IFA president Joe Healy in front of a packed room at the Newgrange Hotel.

“Why can others damage my reputation? I’m requesting the opportunity to address the council meeting on Thursday in camera. It’s not acceptable that I cannot tell the truth. I wish to be treated with the same respect and regard as other [former IFA] presidents,” he said.

Later he added that he intended addressing the IFA national council on Thursday, with or without the blessing of Mr Healy.

“I’m going to national council on Thursday and I’m going to have my say, whether you want me or not.”

Mr Healy stated that the matter would would be for national council to decide, however, when pressed further he conceded that he had no problem with Mr Downey addressing the national council meeting. A spokesman for the IFA had no further comment to make as to whether the former president would be given the opportunity to present his version of events.

Mr Downey also urged farmers present to “reclaim our organisation from Bluebell” where IFA executive staff are headquartered.

He was also critical of the specially-commissioned report drawn up by the highly-respected former IFA economist Con Lucey in the wake of the revelations two years ago.

“Tear up the Con Lucey report - it’s an in-house report designed to protect the staff,” he claimed at the meeting.

“I did not resign because I signed a €2m package with Pat Smith. I settled it quickly because I knew that the first cost would be the least cost.” 

Mr Downey also talked about his time as IFA leader and just how powerful the role still is, remarking that “doors in the Department of Finance were literally opened for you”. 

He said that he was “damn proud” of his achievements in the IFA, especially the introduction of tax incentives for long term land leasing which he claimed “changed the face of land tenure". 

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