Downey refused to sign off on IFA general secretary’s pay

IFA president remains in hot water over pay controversy despite decision to step back

General Secretary of the IFA Pat Smith was forced to resign last week in the wake of criticism of his salary package, which was €445,000 in 2014 and €535,000 in 2013. File photograph: Eric Luke

General Secretary of the IFA Pat Smith was forced to resign last week in the wake of criticism of his salary package, which was €445,000 in 2014 and €535,000 in 2013. File photograph: Eric Luke

 

The president and the treasurer of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) refused to sign off on former general secretary Pat Smith’s pay last year because they were unhappy with the group’s remuneration procedures, The Irish Times has learned.

Mr Smith, the association’s de facto boss since 2009, was forced to resign last week in the wake of criticism of his salary package, which was €445,000 in 2014 and €535,000 in 2013.

IFA president Eddie Downey claims he only discovered the extent of Mr Smith’s remuneration 24 hours before he resigned.

The organisation’s deputy president Tim O’Leary, however, told The Irish Times that both Mr Downey and the association’s treasurer Jer Bergin refused to sanction Mr Smith’s pay for 2014.

‘Not comfortable’

Despite their reservations, the IFA paid Mr Smith a basic salary and pension entitlement of €445,000 last year.

However, the organisation did not pay Mr Smith a bonus or a director’s fee from IFA Telecom, which had been worth €90,000 to him in 2013.

Amid calls for his resignation, Mr Downey announced on Monday he would step back from his role as president while the association’s former chief economist Con Lucey carries out a review of governance structures within the IFA.

Financial controls

The IFA will hold another emergency meeting of its executive in Dublin on Wednesday to apprise members of recent events.

The association has also released details of Mr Downey’s salary package, which show he earns a basic pay of €147,000, exclusive of expenses.

However, a report on the farming news website Agriland revealed Mr Downey was also in receipt of directors’ fees – €30,000 from FBD Insurance and €11,970 from Bord Bia.

The IFA has pledged to reveal details of Mr Smith severance package once it is agreed.

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

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney welcomed Mr Downey’s decision to step back pending the review.