IFA president Downey quits after €2m deal disclosure

€2.7 million pension pot brought general secretary’s exit package to €4.7 million

The revelation that former Irish Farmers’ Association general secretary Pat Smith (left) was to receive a €4.7 million combined pension and severance package has led to the resignation of the association’s president, Eddie Downey (right). Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

The revelation that former Irish Farmers’ Association general secretary Pat Smith (left) was to receive a €4.7 million combined pension and severance package has led to the resignation of the association’s president, Eddie Downey (right). Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

 

The revelation that former Irish Farmers’Association general secretary Pat Smith was to receive a €2million severance package on top of his €2.7million pension deal and has led to the resignation of the association’s president Eddie Downey.

Mr Downey stood down on Wednesday night after it it emerged at an all-day meeting of the IFA’s executive council that he had agreed a €2 million severance package with Mr Smith. This was to comprise an upfront payment of €1 million, to be followed by €100,000 annually for 10 years.

The executive council on Wednesday voted unanimously to oppose paying Mr Smith anything following his departure from the organisation, and the IFA said it would mount a robust legal challenge to the package.

The severance deal was on top of Mr Smith’s pension arrangements. The executive council was told his pension pot was worth €2.7 million a year ago when he transferred it from the IFA into his own control.

Mr Smith had been general secretary for six years, but had worked for the IFA for 25 years in a variety of posts.

He resigned last week in the face of growing outrage among farmers at the scale of his previously undisclosed pay package. His total package, including pension contributions, amounted to nearly €1 million for the two years 2013 and 2014. A grassroots campaign forced the IFA to publish his salary details, despite a long-standing refusal to do so.

Members of the executive council were told the severance agreement was signed by Mr Downey and Mr Smith but not by IFA treasurer Jer Bergin, financial controller Ken Heade, or deputy president Tim O’Leary. The latter three men are understood to have opposed the deal.

The strong opposition to the severance deal appears to have precipitated Mr Downey’s decision to step down. “This is very difficult decision for me and I am doing so in the best interests of the association which I have served for over 25 years,” he said in a statement.

Mr Downey, who did not attend Wednesday’s meeting, had already “stepped back” from his role as president pending a review of the association’s corporate governance and remuneration procedures.

His departure will lead to the election of a new IFA leader, who will be chosen by members of its 900-plus local branches.