IFA holds onto members despite executive pay scandal

Only slight drop in membership recorded but greater fall in levy contributions

Former Irish Farmers’ Association general secretary Pat Smith (left) and former president Eddie Downey. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Former Irish Farmers’ Association general secretary Pat Smith (left) and former president Eddie Downey. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Fewer than 1 per cent of Irish Farmers Association (IFA) members left the organisation since the controversy erupted last year over the salaries paid to officials, the organisation has said.

Some 528 memberships have been cancelled while 1,132 (3.7 per cent) of calls received by the organisation since last November carried comments and complaints regarding the events of that month.

Forecasts to the end of March 2016 suggest a decrease of 12 per cent in net levy, including refunds, with approximately 300 refund submissions received since November.

In a statement, the association pointed out that “the fall in commodity prices across most farm enterprises and changes in volume have had an impact here also”.

Levy contributions to the IFA totalled over €4.7million in 2015.

Former IFA president Eddie Downey stepped down in November following revelations that former secretary general Pat Smith had received annual salaries of up to €535,000. The election to replace Mr Downey takes place next month.

In a report to the IFA executive council on Tuesday, national chairman Jer Bergin said that the total fully paid-up members eligible to vote in that election for president and deputy president stands at 75,501, while over 96 per cent of the 30,335 calls received by the Association since November related to day-to-day farming issues.

He said a number of members initially called to cancel but then decided to retain membership until the next renewal date did for a number of reasons, including IFA representation on important issues affecting their income; the €75 FBD insurance voucher; and the right to vote in the presidential election.

Where non-voting members were concerned, he said an additional 4,000 members were overdue and a programme was underway to re-sign such people.

Countryside members, associate members, and other non-fully paid-up members made up a further 4,000, he said.