Pressure mounts on IFA board as counties call for resignations

Eight county executives now urging all or some of board to exit in wake of pay scandal

Former IFA president Eddie Downey: “The message I got was I was thrown under the bus at the meeting.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Former IFA president Eddie Downey: “The message I got was I was thrown under the bus at the meeting.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The executive board of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is coming under mounting pressure to resign on foot of the pay controversy surrounding the organisation.

Eight IFA county executives are calling for some or all of the association’s executive board to go – four more than last week.

There are only six members left on the eight-person board in the wake of the resignations of former general secretary Pat Smith and president Eddie Downey.

Executive branches in west Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Mayo, Meath, Roscommon and Sligo have submitted resolutions to IFA headquarters in Dublin calling for more resignations ahead the next executive council meeting on December 15th.

Several other county executives, including Limerick, Longford, Monaghan, Clare, Leitrim, Laois, Carlow and Waterford have scheduled meetings where the matter will be discussed the coming days.

A number of county executives have voted to wait until former IFA chief economist Con Lucey completes his review of pay and pensions before determining their position.

A resolution needs a two-thirds majority of the 53-person council to be adopted.

The IFA has declined to comment on claims by Mr Downey that he was “thrown under the bus” at last week’s marathon meeting of the executive, which resulted in his resignation.

His position became untenable after it emerged he had agreed a €2 million severance deal with Mr Smith, which the executive voted not to honour.

Speaking publicly for the first time since he stood down, Mr Downey stated he had received advice from “more than one person” and had not acted on his own in reaching the deal, contradicting IFA claims he had acted “on his own”.

Pension pot

Mr Smith’s €2 million severance package, which has not been paid, involves €1 million up-front and €100,000 annually for 10 years.

The deal, which was separate from his €2.7 million pension pot, has caused outrage among farmers, already reeling from revelations he received a salary package of nearly €500,000.

Mr Downey told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland he had received advice before meeting with Mr Smith to negotiate the terms of his exit. “Their advice was good, they gave me correct and right advice,” he said.

However, Mr Downey would not name the people who gave him the advice or say how many people were involved.

“There is enough reputational damage done to people; mine has been shattered, my family have suffered enough pain. I have no intention of inflicting pain on other people,” he said.

“Resignations should stop. I think there’s been enough blood on the floor here. This organisation needs a period of healing and we all need to come together and work on that basis.”

Asked about when he had decided to tender his resignation, Mr Downey replied: “I got word from the meeting that some of the facts surrounding my involvement with the general secretary’s departure were being misrepresented. The message I got was I was thrown under the bus at the meeting.”