Election count to determine next IFA president begins this morning

Two farmers from Meath and Laois contesting election

Tue, Dec 17, 2013, 01:05


The counting of votes in the Irish Farmers Association’s presidential election will begin in Castleknock, Dublin, this morning, and a result is expected this evening.

Two candidates are vying to be the 14th IFA president – deputy president Eddie Downey (52) from Slane, Co Meath, and Leinster vice-president Jer Bergin (49) from Ballacolla, Co Laois.

Both men have travelled thousands of miles to canvass farmers and have attended 13 head-to-head debates, the first of which was held in Limerick in October.

The count will begin with votes from Munster, which has been a key battleground in the campaign. There were record turnouts in the home counties of both candidates, and the election is deemed too close to call.

Voting in the contest to replace outgoing president John Bryan closed on Friday night, with 945 of the 946 branches voting. An IFA branch in Co Roscommon, Granlahan, did not reach the quorum of eight members required. Members boycotted the election over the stance taken by the IFA leadership during negotiations on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

They said it did not favour smaller producers.

Strong turnout
IFA’s national returning officer Michael Keane said the election process had gone very smoothly, and he was delighted with the strong turnout of members.

The presidential election is a complex affair which involves a weighted voting system giving extra votes to those branches with high turnouts.

The association’s national treasurer JJ Kavanagh and Cork Central farm business representative Tim O’Leary are running for IFA deputy president.

Three candidates are contesting the position of Munster regional chairman – Kevin Kiersey from Waterford, James McCarthy from Kerry, and Eddie Scanlan from Limerick.

The successful candidates will take up their roles at the association’s AGM on January 14th.

THE CANDIDATES

EDDIE DOWNEY

Eddie Downey farms 140 acres with his son Patrick at Monknewtown, Slane, Co Meath . Their main enterprises are suckling, tillage and broiler breeding.

He is deputy president of IFA, and has held many positions in the organisation since he became involved 20 years ago.

He was a key member of the IFA crisis team that sourced fodder abroad during the crisis this year.

He and his wife Mary have two children, Alice (22) and Patrick (19).

He says his key objectives include securing fair and transparent prices for farmers and cutting the costs of inputs and the bureaucracy on farms.

He is also urging banks to free up credit to support the growth of the farming sector.

JER BERGIN
Jer Bergin runs a suckler beef, tillage and sheep farm with wife Margaret and brother Pat at Ballacolla, Co Laois.

He has been involved with the IFA for more than 20 years, and is currently its Leinster vice-president.

He is also the chairman of the association’s climate change and renewables project team, and its roads project team.

He says his key policy objectives include restoring the charter of rights for farmers “which has been effectively demolished in the last four years”.

He is also calling for the introduction of a stimulus package for targeted farm development which would encourage the sustainable expansion of all farming sectors.

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