Background: Downey pierces IFA version of events
Ex-president claims he was not acting alone in agreeing controversial €2m exit package
Former IFA president Eddie Downey has been consistently blamed by his former employers. Photograph: Ciara Wilkinson
Not for the first time of late, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is struggling to get its story straight. It has consistently blamed former president Eddie Downey for the controversial €2 million severance package agreed with former general secretary Pat Smith.
The arrangement, we were told from the outset, was brokered by Downey “on his own” without the consent of deputy president Tim O’Leary and treasurer Jer Bergin.
However, in a series of public interviews on Tuesday, Downey torpedoed this version of events, claiming he had been “thrown under the bus” at last week’s marathon meeting of the IFA’s executive council.
Speaking publicly for the first time since he stood down, Downey stated he had received advice from “more than one person” and had not acted on his own in reaching the deal.
As one insider put it: “If Eddie was thrown under the bus, who was driving it and who threw him?”
Neither Smith nor the IFA have declared their intentions, though Downey seemed to suggest a legal bust-up was inevitable.
Up to 10 county executives are happy to hold fire on the association’s beleaguered executive, or what’s left of it, until its former chief economist Con Lucey completes a review of pay and remuneration.
Smith claims his basic salary package was actually less than his predecessor, Michael Berkery, now the chairman of FDB insurance. Berkery, who was IFA general secretary for 25 years up to 2009, has warned the group not to release details of his salary as they are covered by a confidentiality agreement.
Currently, at least seven county executives are calling on some or all of the remaining executive board to go, with several more counties due to meet in the coming days.
Either way, the next executive council meeting on December 15th looks certain to be another watershed moment for the farmers’ lobby group.