Farm Ireland

Monday 19 March 2018

'We are committed to restoring the faith and trust of our members'

An open letter from the IFA

Acting IFA President Tim O'Leary
Acting IFA President Tim O'Leary

Farmers are extremely annoyed. They have every right to be. They feel let down. The outdated governance of our Association surrounding the pay for the general secretary and president has let us all down. For that, we are truly sorry. We wish to apologise unreservedly to our fellow farmers.

We want to make amends and regain your trust. We are determined to introduce the necessary changes to move forward with robust structures.

Farmers expect IFA to work for them. IFA has worked hard for farmers for the last 60 years and we have won many battles. We have to get back there and we want you with us for the current battles and those of the future. We know that farmers want a strong IFA working for them.

When Con Lucey resigned from the Audit Committee in August 2014 alleging 'unacceptable interference by the general secretary in the work of the committee', as national officers, we acted decisively.

In his letters, Con made it clear that the initial work of the Audit Committee had not found 'any financial irregularity in IFA'. At no stage were we informed of the scale of the general's secretary pay package.

In line with the Lucey recommendations, we insisted that a fully-qualified auditor was appointed to chair a fit-for-purpose IFA Audit Committee, which excluded the general secretary. The committee proceeded to do its work.

We were working within the rules of the association, which posed some difficulties that may not be fully understood. By its very nature, this type of work was confidential.

We were also dealing with many important national farming issues at that time, including the beef price crisis, which is IFA's core activity.

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As national officers we fought our case and set up a new, strengthened Remuneration Committee to deal with the pay of the general secretary and the president. During this period, the national treasurer and president refused to engage in any salary review for the general secretary, including bonuses. This was to be the first action of the Remuneration Committee.

We now have an Audit Committee doing excellent work keeping the books in order. We have a mechanism to sort out the pay issue. What we have seen won't happen again.

As a group, we believe in the IFA ethos of working as a team to make conditions better for farming and farmers. That means listening to members, addressing their issues and solving their problems.

Next week, our Executive Council, the decision-making body in IFA, will receive Con Lucey's review. He deserves great credit for coming back to continue his work. He's an example of the best of IFA. Whatever is in his review, we will act on it and implement it.

We are committed to restoring the faith and trust of members. That means being in tune with their concerns, whatever sector they belong to. This will take some time, but we need you to stay with us.

Again, we want to apologise. Your trust is important to us. Let's work together to deliver for farmers.

Tim O'Leary

Jer Bergin

James Murphy

James McCarthy

Tom Turley

Bert Stewart

Indo Farming