AFTER all the controversy surrounding the recent resignation of Eddie Downey as president of the IFA, the farmers’ organisation is trying to put the turbulent pre-Christmas events behind them and elect a new leader.
There are three candidates in the field and all will be visiting West Cork next week as part of the series of presidential debates that are being staged throughout the country in advance of the election.
The head-to-head debates get under way with West Cork farmers getting their chance to meet and question the candidates at the Parkway Hotel, Dunmanway, on Tuesday evening, February 9th, while farmers nearer the city can meet them the following night, Wednesday 10th, at the Oriel Hotel in Ballincollig. The contenders for the IFA presidency are Henry Burns, Joe Healy and Flor McCarthy.
IFA national livestock committee chairman Henry Burns is a mixed beef, sheep and tillage farmer from Co Laois. He represents Irish livestock farmers on Bord Bia’s meat and livestock board and sits on a number of government and semi-state advisory boards.
Apart from farm incomes, he is greatly concerned about the lack of competition in the beef processing industry. He said he wants to unify farmers and deliver on policies, declaring: ‘I’m up for this challenge now that the vacancy is there.’
Joe Healy, a dairy farmer from Athenry, Co Galway, and past president of Macra na Feirme, kicked off his presidential election campaign, saying farmers wanted ‘a new beginning’ in IFA and he promised the huge attendance at his launch at the Raheen Woods Hotel that his presidency would ‘drive change’ in the association.
Mr Healy said he was looking forward to the debates and to putting his vision for the IFA to farmers.
He said farmers were ‘disappointed and angry’ at the difficulties caused by a failure of the IFA’s internal governance, adding: ‘We cannot allow this to happen again.’ Among the changes he proposes is less centralisation of power within IFA.
The candidate living closest to West Cork is Kenmare suckler and sheep farmer Flor McCarthy, the current IFA rural development committee chairman. The Kerryman said he wants ‘to unite the organisation and drive it forward.’
Mr McCarthy feels that the farmers in the peripheral areas of Ireland are suffering. He claimed that sheep farmers ‘have been neglected by the IFA and, as president, I will bring the concerns of these farmers to the top table,’ adding also: ‘I would like to introduce better inspection systems for eligible ground.’