New IFA president Cullinan sets sights on beef prices and vows to unite farmers

Tim Cullinan. Picture: Arthur Ellis.
Tim Cullinan. Picture: Arthur Ellis.

Ian Begley and Margaret Donnelly

Tipperary farmer Tim Cullinan has been elected the new president of the IFA after an extremely close race.

The pig farmer from Toomevara beat John Coughlan after the transfer of votes from Angus Woods, who was eliminated after the first count.

However, voting was incredibly close from the minute ballot boxes were opened in the Castleknock Hotel in Dublin yesterday.

Mr Cullinan was ahead on first-preference votes by 932 votes after the first count as the 22,998 votes were counted, with the margin between the three candidates always a couple of hundred votes.

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In fact, Mr Woods was only 253 votes behind Cork dairy and beef farmer John Coughlan when voting in the first round concluded.

But a huge turnout in his home county gave Mr Cullinan a comfortable margin going into the second round.

He then secured 3,163 of Wood's second-preference votes and ultimately emerged as victor.

Following his win, he said he was the proudest man in Ireland and had enjoyed every moment of meeting farmers over the past few months.

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He said the job of the IFA is to represent all farmers, not just the 22,000 who voted in the election.

The first months of his presidency will be about change, he added, including getting a decent price for hard-pressed beef farmers.

Speaking to the media, he said: "Farmers have been walked and trampled on for too long.

"It's time for farmers to stand up... The public understand that farmers are the food producers, we're the guardians of the country.

"I've travelled every county in the country and it's clear that farmers want change. Division is wrong and I will do everything in my power to reunite farmers in the IFA.

"If we want to deliver for farmers, we have to do it through one voice."

Mr Cullinan said he would also fight for a bigger budget for farmers.

"We understand that we will have a Brexit, but my responsibility is to look after farmers, and I will absolutely fight for a bigger budget.

"We as farmers have always taken the environment seriously and the Government needs to wake up because clearly our grasslands and hedgerows are an excellent carbon sink.

"I believe that with the right people around that we will get IFA back to its rightful place as the strongest farmer representative body in Ireland, but also in Europe," he said.

Mr Cullinan started farming on his parent's farm outside Toomevara with a small dairy herd and he built a pig shed for 60 sows.

Today, his team running the pig farm comprises 15 people, including his wife Margaret and son Stephen.

He had called for a radical overhaul of the IFA during his election campaign and the current IFA treasurer has long been considered a driver of change and reform in the association.

He also supported the Beef Plan Movement's protests in the autumn.

During the campaign he hasn't shied away from controversy, taking aim at the factories, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and fellow candidates along the way.

Prior to the count, the consensus among seasoned observers of IFA elections was that the race would be extremely tight, but few predicted that at no point was there any clear indication of even who would be eliminated first.

Irish Independent

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