IFA hopes governance review ‘rebuilds trust’ of farmers

Executive council says move ‘an important step forward’ after controversy over pay

IFA Deputy President Tim O’Leary speaking with IFA Cork West Chair Richard Connell, before the IFA Executive Council Meeting at the farm Centre in Dublin. Photograph: Finbarr O’Rourke

IFA Deputy President Tim O’Leary speaking with IFA Cork West Chair Richard Connell, before the IFA Executive Council Meeting at the farm Centre in Dublin. Photograph: Finbarr O’Rourke

 

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is to carry out a review of its corporate governance structures in the wake of recent controversy over pay in the organisation.

At an emergency meeting of its executive council in Dublin on Wednesday, the IFA said the review, which will cover all aspects of remuneration, would be conducted by former chief economist Con Lucey.

Mr Lucey, who first raised concerns about the IFA’s financial controls last year, will report back to the council with his recommendations on December 15th.

The 53-member council unanimously welcomed Mr Lucey’s involvement, noting it was an “important step forward in re-building the trust of farmers”.

The association has been thrown into crisis by revelations its former general secretary Pat Smith, who resigned last week, was paid nearly €1 million over two years.

Mr Lucey said his recommendations would “reflect the fact that times and corporate governance standards have changed; businesses and organisations are now subject to greater scrutiny as regards how they operate”.

Remuneration package

IFA deputy president Tim O’Leary confirmed Mr Lucey had agreed to examine all aspects of the remuneration package of the former general secretary from his appointment in 2009 until he resigned in 2015.

“He will do the same for the president and the deputy president in order to provide the membership with full transparency,” Mr O’Leary said, adding that the IFA would make all financial data available to Mr Lucey.

Mr Lucey said a voluntary, representative organisation such as IFA “needs to be above suspicion in everything it does, in order to both maintain the trust of the members, and to maintain its good image in the media and wider society”.

Amid calls for his resignation, IFA president Eddie Downey has stepped back from his role pending the review.

Farmers have expressed outrage at scale of remuneration being received by the association’s most senior officials. Several county meetings were held on Tuesday night to gauge the mood of members in the wake of the controversy.

Mr Lucey last year resigned as chairman of the IFA’s audit committee after raising his concerns. He has been reinstated to carry out the review in an attempt to draw a line under the controversy.

The association has released details of Mr Downey’s salary package, which show he earns a basic pay of €147,000. He is also in receipt of two directors’ fees - €30,000 from FBD Insurance and €11,970 from Bord Bia.

The IFA has also come under pressure to reveal details of Mr Smith’s pension package, which has still to be agreed.

Mr O’Leary, who will undertake the functions of the IFA president during the review, described Mr Smith’s salary package as “shocking”.