IFA to pay Pat Smith €1.9m in settlement of two legal actions

Former Irish Farmers’ Association official took case over severance and defamation

 Pat Smith says he is looking forward to developing a successful future  in the renewable energy sector.  Photograph: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

Pat Smith says he is looking forward to developing a successful future in the renewable energy sector. Photograph: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

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Former general secretary of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Pat Smith has reached a settlement with the organisation for €1.9 million plus legal costs, estimated to be in excess of €500,000, following the settlement of two legal actions arising out of his controversial departure in 2015.

Mr Smith left his post as IFA general secretary in November 2015, amid speculation around his salary, which was later revealed to be in excess of €500,000 per annum.

The subsequent outcry over his €2 million exit package, which was withheld by the organisation, triggered a major crisis within the IFA, which eventually forced the resignation of then president Eddie Downey.

Mr Smith later brought two legal actions against his former employer, including one for breach of contract over its failure to pay his €2 million severance, and one alleging he was defamed by the IFA in statements to the media in the wake of his departure.

In the High Court on Thursday, counsel for the IFA Mark Connaughton SC confirmed both legal actions had been settled and the IFA now “accepted that Mr Smith was a highly effective, hardworking and dedicated executive of the association”.

Damage regretted

It also accepted it had made certain statements in the media at the time of his departure that were defamatory of Mr Smith and regretted the damage caused to his reputation.

Separately, the IFA said it had agreed to pay Mr Smith €1.55 million in respect of the action for breach of contract and €350,000 in respect of the separate defamation action and Mr Smith’s substantial legal costs.

In a statement, Mr Smith, who did not appear in court, said as far as he was concerned the matters in dispute were now closed and he looked forward to developing a successful future with his new business in the renewable energy sector.

Mr Smith’s departure from the IFA came on foot of disquiet among grassroot members over his salary.

In total, he was paid nearly €3.5 million in salary, bonuses and pension entitlements during his seven-year stint as general secretary of the IFA between 2009 and 2015. His highest annual income was in 2013 when he was paid €542,000.

The fallout of these disclosures plunged the organisation into crisis and caused a significant fall-off in subscriptions as farmers renounced their membership in protest.

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