Sunday 22 July 2018

'Let me tell truth' on IFA settlement: ex-president

Eddie Downey Picture: Ciara Wilkinson.
Eddie Downey Picture: Ciara Wilkinson.
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Former Irish Farmers' Association president Eddie Downey is demanding to address a national meeting, claiming he was defamed during the period when he stepped down from his role.

The fallout from the association's €1.9m settlement with its former secretary general Pat Smith continues to rumble.

Mr Downey wanted to air his version of events at a meeting of the organisation's national council, which has been due to take place in IFA headquarters in Dublin today. But it has now been cancelled due to the weather conditions.

"I've waited long enough to tell the truth about what happened in that room," he said of the night more than two years ago when he signed off on a €2m severance deal with the then general secretary Mr Smith.

It follows the IFA accepting that it defamed Mr Smith after two legal actions were settled outside the High Court. The IFA confirmed that Mr Smith is to receive €1.55m in relation to his severance claim and €350,000 in relation to his defamation claim.

Earlier this week, Mr Downey addressed more than 100 farmers attending a Meath IFA AGM in Navan. He claimed that he had been defamed by reports during the period when both he and Mr Smith stepped down from their roles at the head of the country's largest farmer organisation, which was engulfed in a pay controversy.

Mr Downey told the meeting he was passed a ticking timebomb when he became president. "The music stopped and I was holding the parcel."

When details of the €2m severance deal for Mr Smith emerged, Mr Downey claimed senior members of the IFA effectively "threw me under a bus".

"Reports at the time said that Eddie Downey acted alone. This is not true. This is defamation," he told the Meath IFA AGM.

"All that I did that day was approved and at every step I sought and received approval. Why, Mr president, can I not tell the truth now?" he asked the current IFA president Joe Healy in front of a packed room at the Newgrange Hotel.

Later he added that he intended addressing the IFA national council, with or without the blessing of Mr Healy.

Mr Healy stated that the matter would be for national council to decide.

However, when pressed further he conceded that he had no problem with Mr Downey addressing the national council meeting.

A spokesman for the IFA had no further comment to make as to whether the former president would be given the opportunity to present his version of events.

Irish Independent

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