Farm Ireland

Monday 20 November 2017

The gloves are off as race for IFA presidency enters final furlong

Jer Bergin
Jer Bergin
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The race for the top job in the IFA is tightening as the campaign enters the critical final four-week period.

Observers believe that Jer Bergin has made serious inroads into the massive lead that Eddie Downey had at the beginning of the campaign and seasoned observers are finding it harder to call the final outcome.

"They both appear to be adopting a late burst strategy because there doesn't seem to have been as much door-to-door campaigning as was witnessed during the last election," said one midlands source.

Greater apathy towards the election appears to be a feature of this year's contest, with some predicting that the vote will be back by at least 20pc on 2009/10.

"The absence of contests for the regional positions in Connacht, South Leinster and North Leinster and Ulster means that members are less engaged in whole election issue," said a Connacht-based member.

Laois native Jer Bergin has secured the support of a number of very high profile past and present IFA leaders, including former presidents Pádraig Walshe and John Dillon, former regional president Michael Silke and current livestock chairman Henry Burns.


Pádraig Walshe is now seen as spearheading the drive to recruit the large dairy vote in the Munster area, with some speculation about a link up between Bergin's team and Tim O'Leary, who is contesting the election for deputy president.

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Meath man Eddie Downey came into the race having had four years of unfettered access to county executives nationwide, which he used to his full advantage to forge strong allegiances with branch and county leaders nationwide.

"Eddie used his term as deputy president well in that he became very visible and earned a reputation as a very likeable leader," said a Munster member.

"But the question that hangs over him is whether he will be tough enough when it comes to the crunch over the negotiating table," he added.

Both camps are claiming to have put together 'massive' teams of campaigners, but November will be the real test for supporters to show their mettle.

"It's no joke getting into cars and heading for Donegal and West Cork, and there is a real danger that Laois may not have the same hunger as the Meathmen for the long haul over the coming weeks," said one seasoned electioneer. "Remember that Laois has gone through this twice in recent years to get Pádraig across the line."

However, key opinion formers such as Michael Silke are reported to be making serious headway into territories that were previously considered to be Downey strongholds.

Against this, both Pádraig Walshe and John Dillon are seen to be polarising characters that could drive as many farmers to vote against Bergin as for him. "Bergin can't rely on the big names to pull him over the line," said another Leinster member.

Irish Independent