O’Leary and Deane drop out of IFA election race

Henry Burns, Flor McCarthy and Joe Healy seek to succeed Eddie Downey

Former IFA president Eddie Downey. File Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

The deputy president of the Irish Farmers’ Association and an official centrally involved in exposing issues over pay and pensions at the organisation have both failed to gain enough support to contest the election to be its next president.

Tim O'Leary, who was put in temporary charge of the organisation following the departure of IFA president Eddie Downey late last year, and IFA Carlow chairman Derek Deane, who spearheaded the campaign for greater transparency, were initially seen as the frontrunners in the election race.

The IFA's returning officer, Jer Bergin, announced the association had received three nominations by Wednesday's 5.30pm deadline.

The shortlist comprises Henry Burns from Laois, who is currently the IFA's livestock chairman; Flor McCarthy from Kerry, the organisation's rural development chief; and Joe Healy from Galway, an IFA farm business representative.


The election was prompted by the departure of Mr Downey, who resigned last year after a signing off on a controversial €2 million severance package for former general secretary Pat Smith.

Both Mr O’Leary and Mr Deane failed to get the required backing of their own county executive and at least five others.

Both fell one nomination short.

Regional heads

The IFA plans to hold elections for its new president, deputy president and four regional heads in early to mid April.

The salary to be paid to the next president has still to be decided by the organisation’s newly installed remuneration committee.

Mr Healy launched his campaign by stating he believed the next president should only receive an amount sufficient to cover the running of his farm.

This would be substantially less than that received by the former incumbent, Mr Downey, who received a basic salary of €156,000 plus several directors’ fees, bringing the total closer to €190,000.

Review of pay

In a recent review of pay and pensions, the group’s former chief economist,

Con Lucey

, recommended the president’s income should, at least, be based on the gross cost of replacing the labour and management of the president.

At an executive council meeting this week, a number of changes to the group’s governance structures were agreed, including a reduction of the terms of office from four years to two.

The voting system has also been changed to make it more democratic.

The meeting also agreed to calls for the existing board to stand aside two years early to facilitate a full round of elections.

In November, the IFA’s 53-person executive council voted unanimously to withhold Mr Smith’s controversial €2 million severance package.

However, he has subsequently initiated legal proceedings against his former organisation in an effort to secure the money.

His lawyers last month lodged a "specific performance" case in the High Court, which alleges that the IFA breached the agreement, which would have seen Mr Smith walk away with €1 million upfront and €100,000 annually for 10 years.

In legal letters sent to the IFA’s executive, Mr Smith also claims he was defamed by suggestions that he was “fired” as a result of the pay controversy.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times