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Independent.ie

Friday 19 January 2018

Southwest holds key to new IFA president

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The big guns in the IFA presidential teams have been "camped out" in Kerry and West Cork over the past week as the southwest becomes the focal point for the imminent IFA elections.

The large number of branches, combined with the high turnouts expected in the region, has made it the key battleground for the hearts and minds of IFA delegates with just two weeks to go before the count begins at the Castleknock Hotel in Dublin.

Eddie Downey's election manager and dairy farmer Diarmuid Lally has been going head-to-head with Jer Bergin's Padraig Walshe around the 108 branches in Kerry and West Cork.

While Galway, Mayo and Roscommon account for 172 branches, it is expected that voter turnout could be down by as much as 40pc in the west.

This is despite reports of a huge push by canvassers in the Galway region over the last week.

"There is a lot of apathy with no western candidate contesting any position after the western chairmanship was uncontested," said one western farmer. While it remains too close to call in the west in terms of the race for the presidency, there is a growing sense that Wexford's JJ Kavanagh may be looking too strong for Cork's Tim O'Leary to overtake in the deputy president contest.

Mr Kavanagh appears to be the front runner in the west and along the Border area, where a seasoned electioneer noted that Mr Kavanagh had spent a lot of time training branch members in recent months.

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"There hasn't been much sign of Tim O'Leary, and he needn't be relying on the dairy men because ultimately it's the dairy committee that make the dairy decisions," he said.

However, all canvass watchers agree that Mr O'Leary has impressed during the debates. Whether this will translate into enough votes at the ballot box remains to be seen.

On the presidential campaign trail, the Border areas and northwest appear to be Eddie Downey's to lose.

But the Meath farmer is reported to be struggling to win over neighbouring Westmeath.

South Leinster is likely to plump largely for Jer Bergin, leaving Munster the focal point for the remaining days of canvassing.

One Cork IFA member said that he felt that Mr Bergin's canvass appeared rushed.

"They called to every farm and left off fliers, but didn't stop to talk to anyone," he said.

However, reports from the midwest suggest that Mr Bergin is likely to have the upper hand in regions such as Tipperary North and South.

Irish Independent