Transparency ‘will be maximised’ IFA president promises

Newly elected Joe Healy sets out his stall in inaugural speech to organisation’s AGM

The new president of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Joe Healy (above) has said transparency “will be maximised” within an organisation rocked by controversy over executive pay. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

The new president of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Joe Healy (above) has said transparency “will be maximised” within an organisation rocked by controversy over executive pay. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

 

The new president of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has said transparency “will be maximised” within an organisation rocked by controversy over executive pay.

Joe Healy, elected last week, set out his stall at his inaugural speech to the organisation’s AGM on Wednesday.

To a warm reception in a packed Farm Centre in Dublin, Mr Healy said members had been let down by failures in transparency and governance.

“We must resolve the structural failures that led to recent events,” he said of the controversy that precipitated two high profile resignations within the IFA.

Last November former general secretary Pat Smith stepped down following questions over his pay.

The following month, Eddie Downey, former president, followed after sanctioning a €2 million severance package for Mr Smith.

In a series of popular statements on Wednesday, Mr Healy said the organisation’s full accounts would be made available every year.

“The remuneration committee will set the payment levels for the president and director general and these will be made publicly available,” he said, adding that neither holder of those positions would sit on the committee.

“I will start the process for the appointment of a new director general and a review of the levy immediately.

“This will be followed by a comprehensive review of all areas of income and expenditure. As part of this, a review of pay and working conditions at all levels will be undertaken.”

Regarding other business in his nascent leadership, the new president said his “number one priority” would be the farm income crisis.

Mr Healy’s recent landslide election has been interpreted as a rejection of the IFA establishment. An outsider to high officialdom within the organisation, the dairy farmer was not on the national executive, the usual sourcing pool for leadership.

In his ascendency to the 15th presidency, Mr Healy dispatched both rivals – Henry Burns, IFA livestock chairman and its rural development boss Flor McCarthy. He is the second Galway man to hold the position.

His promotion will be watched carefully as the personification of a new era within the IFA, something the election appears to have demanded.

Mr Healy had praised the record of Mr Downey but he appears to signal change.

Following his election, he acknowledged the newly-established remuneration committee would decide his salary, and noted farmers deserved more transparency about how the IFA made these kinds of decisions.

Fully conscious of his role as outlier, Mr Healy had, throughout a hard fought election, argued that only one at a distance to the “perceived hierarchy” could affect change and restore the IFA’s reputation.