IFA may have to face more embarrassing disclosures

Lucey review of pay and governance goes back only to 2009, when Smith took charge

IFA deputy president Tim O’Leary, acting general secretary Bryan Barry and economist Con Lucey. Mr Lucey’s review was published yesterday. Photograph: Finbarr O’Rourke

IFA deputy president Tim O’Leary, acting general secretary Bryan Barry and economist Con Lucey. Mr Lucey’s review was published yesterday. Photograph: Finbarr O’Rourke

 

Not for the first time the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is attempting to draw a line under the current pay controversy by disclosing more details of the generous salaries and pension pots paid to the organisation’s top brass.

Con Lucey’s review of pay and governance, however, is limited in its scope as it only stretches back to 2009, the year former general secretary and de facto boss Pat Smith took charge.

As a result it avoids any incursion on the reign of Smith’s predecessor, Michael Berkery, now chairman of FBD insurance, who held the post for 25 years.

As reported in The Irish Times, Berkery has threatened his former organisation with legal action should it disclose details of his remuneration.

Recrimination

With the dispute over Smith’s €2 million severance package destined to end up in court, the organisation may struggle to prevent further embarrassing disclosures.

Given that we already knew about Smith’s salary, the most eye-catching aspect of Lucey’s report is the €1.2 million pension top-up afforded to Smith in the wake of the closure of the IFA’s defined benefit scheme in 2011.

The group set aside €4.6 million, which included some property-based pension assets, to compensate members for shortfalls in transfer values paid to the group’s new defined contribution scheme.

Top hat

The other 35 employees involved received roughly €100,000 each.

The report also details how in 2010 Smith negotiated to have €45,000 of his bonus converted to salary to make it pensionable.

The €45,000 appears to have become a permanent part of his basic pay from that point onwards.

It is not totally clear who Smith was negotiating these advantageous deals with, but they appear to be a feature of his time in charge.

Last year the IFA paid €50,000 for text-messaging services from a firm called CP Publishing, of which Smith is a 33 per cent shareholder.

Lucey’s report states that the IFA president and treasurer were signing off on Smith’s remuneration package at least up until last year, when concerns about certain aspects became an issue.

The report also reveals that former president Eddie Downey was paid less than his two predecessors, John Bryan and Padraig Walshe.

Downey’s salary package was €156,000 in 2014 and 2013; Bryan earned €169,400 in 2013 and €160,420 in 2012, while Walshe earned €181,400 in his final year, 2009.

Director’s fee

It was the tradition to send the departing IFA president and his partner on a month’s holiday as a gesture of goodwill. However, somewhere along the way, like everything else in the organisation, this appears to have been substituted with a more generous arrangement.