O'Leary is favourite to take top job - but no shoo-in

Acting IFA President Tim O'Leary
Acting IFA President Tim O'Leary
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

There is now an election in the air as new rules in the Irish Farmers' Association's constitution mean that an election for a replacement must happen within 60 days.

At the moment, the frontrunner in any contest has to be the current acting president, Tim O'Leary.

The Cork dairy farmer surprised many within the IFA ranks when he emerged from nowhere to overwhelmingly win the deputy presidency back in December 2013.

While Mr O'Leary has not worked his way up through the ranks like most who reach his level, his commanding presence was already in evidence as he handled the reins for his president this week.

He is well-connected throughout the agricultural community, not least by virtue of a weekly column written by his wife Katherine in the 'Irish Farmers Journal'.

However, the current treasurer, Jer Bergin, is unlikely to let the chance to challenge for the presidency pass without giving it his best shot.

He contested a hard-fought election with Eddie Downey for the top job two years ago, and the Laois beef farmer has been determined to let history show that he was the man looking to prevent the former general secretary Pat Smith from collecting another €90,000 in top-ups on his pay in 2014 and 2015.

However, both men will find it difficult to convince all grassroots members that they couldn't have done more to expose the pay levels for the top brass.

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That fact opens the door for other contenders, including two regional chairmen, Kilkenny's James Murphy and Galway's Tom Turley.

Both have long track records in several key positions for the organisation, and will see themselves as able challengers.

But it is the outsider who many thought had played his final hand in IFA life in recent weeks who could be the real dark horse.

Derek Deane is a full-time beef farmer from Carlow who ran for the presidency against John Bryan in 2009.

He has been a thorn in the side of the IFA's HQ in his current role as Carlow chairman, and many resented his attempts to undermine the authority of Pat Smith in recent years.

However, the events of the last week have thoroughly vindicated the soft-spoken man from Rathvilly, and many more will now see him as the only person on the national council who was brave enough to take on the system for the benefit of the IFA's 88,000 members.

Irish Independent

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