Pat Smith says €2m deal was fair - but wants charities to get half the cash

IFA warns it will fight severance claim in the courts

November 19: Former general secretary of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) Pat Smith, resigns after 25 years with the organisation amid a controversy over pay.
November 19: Former general secretary of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) Pat Smith, resigns after 25 years with the organisation amid a controversy over pay.
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Former general secretary of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) Pat Smith said he believes a "fair" deal was done over his €2m severance package, as he asked the lobby group to pay €1m of it to charity before Christmas.

Mr Smith, who resigned after 25 years with the organisation amid a controversy over pay, said he has "no intention of lowering" himself and getting into a "brawl" with an organisation in turmoil.

The latest development is expected to enrage grassroots members of the country's most powerful lobby group, who have continued to express anger since it emerged former president Eddie Downey had agreed a €2m severance package with Mr Smith.

However, the IFA stated that Mr Smith had "demanded" the €2m exit package and it had "rightly disowned" this package. "This is a total spin. Pat Smith demanded €2m. He is trying to cover it up," the farm body stated.

The lobby group confirmed it was standing over a vote taken at the emergency executive council meeting to take legal action over the package, which included €1m upfront and €100,000 a year for 10 years.

"We will fight his severance claim all the way," it stated, as it indicated he will have to sue to get any potential monies.

Mr Smith, who spoke out last night in a statement from his solicitors, said when he joined the organisation it had a €3.3m deficit from the defined pension liability - but he left the association with its highest paid-up membership ever and reserves of €19m.

He called for the IFA to "stand good to its deal" and pay his €1m severance to charity before Christmas in equal amounts to Self Help Africa and St Vincent de Paul.

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The statement said: "The severance package agreed with Pat Smith represented approximately six weeks' redundancy pay for each year worked for the association and fulfilled on legal commitments he and other staff have in relation to pension shortfalls following the closure of the defined benefit scheme."

It pointed out his basic salary had been at €295,000 since 2010.

"Pat Smith believes the deal done was fair in the context of his work and delivery for the association for over 25 years and the reality of what happened."

Mr Smith also stated that his solicitors wrote to the executive council of the IFA and that he was "very disappointed that those who so badly want transparency" did not make members aware.

However, the IFA insisted Mr Smith's letter was read to the council.

"On transparency, it is Pat Smith who didn't want to submit to transparency over his salary. That is totally unacceptable," the IFA stated.

After details of the €2m severance package emerged, former president Mr Downey tendered his resignation, stating he had gone into the role to be a "reforming president", working to get an audit committee established but its work had been "frustrated".

Mr Smith said the treatment of Mr Downey was "nothing short of disgraceful". The latest development follows a marathon 17-hour emergency session of the council, that saw the resignation of Mr Downey and an election for a new president triggered.

However, a number of motions to remove the entire executive board continue to hang over the lobby group, as it was promised these would be discussed at the next meeting.

Deputy president Tim O'Leary, who declared he was running for the top job, said the motions would be discussed again after people had been "given a bit of time" to assess.

"We are determined to rebuild. We have made a very clear decision from now on the IFA will be far stronger in accountability and transparency," he said, with former chief economist Con Lucey to review pay and governance issues and report by December 15.

Irish Independent

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