Farm Ireland

Thursday 26 April 2018

Race to be IFA president kicks off as board survive

Jer Bergin: ‘I want to rebuild trust in IFA’
Jer Bergin: ‘I want to rebuild trust in IFA’
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

The presidential race to lead the Irish Farmers' Association into a new era is under way, as members digest the report pinpointing a lack of corporate governance and dysfunction at the top of the association.

The executive board survived a vote of 'no confidence' put forward by a significant number of counties. It came in the aftermath of the recent turmoil that saw general secretary Pat Smith resign, followed by president Eddie Downey, amid a pay controversy.

Laois man Jer Bergin will take on the role of chairman to lead the association until a new president is elected.

"I want to rebuild trust and unity within the association as much as I can and get back to core issues," said the IFA national treasurer, who has ruled himself out of running in the next election.

"I see the Con Lucey report as the start of a process of reform, not the end all, but the beginning of a process. The executive council (has) gone back to the counties with the report. We'll set up an interpretation group for proposals and reform. That is part of rebuilding trust in the association."

The report from former chief economist Mr Lucey highlighted a view that power in the organisation had been centralised and sought to restore policy-making power to national committees.

It sought reforms to the internal governance of the body, setting out that the powerful position of general secretary should be divided - with a new post of secretary to deal with corporate governance.

It also highlighted that monies paid to IFA staff and elected representatives for membership of external boards should go to the farm body.

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Mr Bergin refused to sign off on a bonus and IFA Telecom fees for Mr Smith in 2014 and 2015 until the setting up of a remuneration committee

Cork dairy farmer Tim O'Leary left the acting role of president, but will continue in the deputy president role as he bids for the top job, while former Connacht vice-president Michael Silke has also expressed his intention to run.

Mr Bergin said they would set up the presidential process as "efficiently" as possible, as they await a council meeting in early January to see if they can get approval to change the rules to extend the date of the election.

South Leinster regional chair James Murphy said it showed there was "too much power in the hands of too few people and officers elected hadn't enough power".

However, regional farm leaders whose members had called for the resignation of the executive board have flagged they expect further concerns to be raised. West Cork IFA chairman Richard Connell said he expected disappointment from farmers that there was not more change at the top.

"We'd have issues about being able to move forward without a new team," he said.

Irish Independent