IFA boss resigns in wake of pay controversy

Pat Smith says he is putting the best interests of the association to the fore

 IFA general secretary Pat Smith said he was putting the association’s interests to the fore in deciding to go. Photograph: Eric Luke

IFA general secretary Pat Smith said he was putting the association’s interests to the fore in deciding to go. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

The head of the Irish Farmers’ Association Pat Smith has resigned in the wake of the controversy over his pay.

Pressure had been mounting on the organisation to reveal Mr Smith’s remuneration, amid claims it exceeded €450,000 in 2013.

In a statement this evening, Mr Smith, who has held the position since 2009, announced he was standing down.

“The IFA is bigger than any one person. I have decided to put the best interests of the association to the fore,” he said.

The farmers’ lobby has been in the eye of a storm over its refusal to disclose details of Mr Smith’s pay.

The IFA’s executive council last month voted down a motion by Carlow county chairman and former vice president Derek Deane calling for a full disclosure of Mr Smith’s remuneration.

However, in the last week, similar motions were put forward by IFA executives in west Cork and Cavan, and the issue was raised at executive meetings in Louth, Cork central, Carlow, Laois and Kildare.

Mr Deane told The Irish Times the general secretary’s pay represented“an insult” to the ordinary members of the IFA.

He also claimed the controversy was the biggest crisis ever to hit the organisation.

In a statement, IFA president Eddie Downey said the resignation of Mr Smith was “very regrettable and a great loss” to the association and Irish farmers.

“His capacity to develop trusted relationships with political and industry leaders and his negotiating and organisational ability has always delivered the best outcome for our members,” he added.

Following last month’s executive council meeting, the IFA decided to reconfigure its remuneration committee, which sets pay for its top brass, bringing in former Glanbia boss John Moloney to oversee its workings.

The committee has been asked to review the current level of remuneration of its general secretary and president and to report back at the next council meeting.

A poll on the farming news website Agriland, meanwhile, suggested 89 per cent of voters backed calls to have the IFA reveal the remuneration package of its general secretary.

The farm lobby group has more than 88,000 members and is funded through members’ fees, factory levies and business interests.

Mr Smith was appointed on an indefinite basis to the position of general secretary and chief executive in 2009.

His predecessor, Michael Berkery, now chairman of insurer FBD, served in the post for 25 years. Mr Downey, meanwhile, is half way through his four-tenure as president.