IFA pay revelations sparked ‘astonishment’, says Howlin

Greater transparency needed in organisation to restore farmers’ trust, says Coveney

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said: “I think it’s an extraordinary salary. Obviously the IFA is a private company, but it has ordinary hardworking people who contribute to that.” File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said: “I think it’s an extraordinary salary. Obviously the IFA is a private company, but it has ordinary hardworking people who contribute to that.” File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney have described as “extraordinary” the salaries which were paid to senior management at the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA)

IFA general secretary Pat Smith resigned shortly before it emerged he had received a total two-year pay package of nearly €1 million in 2013 and 2014. Details of a €2 million severance package have also emerged.

Speaking during an engagement at Ringaskiddy, Co Cork Mr Howlin said farmers were “knocked out of their socks” by the revelations.

He stressed that one of the first actions of the current Government had been to cap salaries in the public sector in order to show leadership in a difficult economic climate.

“So nobody at that stage was paid any more than €200,000. That was the Taoiseach’s salary at the time. I am afraid I have reduced it further since. And nobody even in our bigger State companies must be paid more than €250,000. I think it’s an extraordinary salary. Obviously the IFA is a private company, but it has ordinary hardworking people who contribute to that.”

‘Degree of astonishment’

Mr Howlin said there was a general “degree of astonishment” at the remuneration levels at the IFA.

Mr Coveney said people were in “disbelief” at the extent and scale of the retirement package put in place for Mr Smith.

Mr Coveney said greater transparency needs to be put in place at the IFA to restore the trust of farmers in the organisation.

“What needs to happen in the IFA, and it is not for me to tell them how to do their business, they need to first of all be totally transparent in terms of how money in spent within the IFA.

‘Farmers are furious’

“I think farmers are furious with what has been unfolding over recent days. I think there is a huge job to be done within the IFA now to rebuild trust with its members.”

Mr Coveney said the IFA needs to act immediately on the report of economist Con Lucey, which will be published on December 15th.

“I think the organisation needs to act on that quickly, fix what is broken because there is a lot broken in the IFA at the moment, and there needs to be a healing process.

“There will be new leadership in the IFA, one way or another. This is a big organisation that needs to find a way to reach out to its members, to rebuild trust and to respond to the anger which I think is totally understandable.”