BY BRIAN MOORE
IT WAS a packed house in Dunmanway as IFA members gathered to meet the candidates for the Irish Farmers’ Association’s top job.
Over 250 IFA members from every corner of West Cork attended the meeting at the Parkway Hotel to hear what the candidates for deputy president and president of the farmers’ organisation had to say. As the six candidates for the two top positions laid out their stalls before the West Cork farmers, it was clear that repairing the trust between farmers and the IFA was top of the agenda.
Richard Kennedy, a farmer from Limerick who is running for the position of deputy president, said that the IFA needed to regain the trust and support of the grass roots members: ‘We need to get back the trust that was so disgracefully lost. Personally, I was appalled when the news broke,’ Mr Kennedy said.
This was echoed by presidential candidate Joe Healy from Athenry, Co Galway, who said that farmers must be put back at the centre of the decision making of the IFA: ‘I firmly believe that the trust and indeed the support of farmers who have been members of this organisation and who have worked tirelessly for the good of the IFA can be regained after the revelations of the last few months,’ Mr Healy said.
However, it was evident from the floor that there were questions that remained to be answered to the satisfaction of many of the farmers at the meeting: ‘Why wasn’t there a truly independent inquiry following the news about president’s and the chief executive’s salaries and bonuses?’ Donal Kenny asked from the floor.
Presidential candidate Flor McCarty from Kenmare said that, if he was elected and if the members wanted a further inquiry, then he would consider this, but he wanted to move the organisation forward and get back to representing the needs of the farmers.
‘I proposed Con Lucey to undertake the enquiry and, as far as I am concerned, Con has reported and we need to get back to supporting the farmers. We can keep looking back, but that’s just going to take from the important work we have to do.
‘Are we going to represent farmers or are we going to keep going back in history?’ Mr McCarthy asked.
Henry Burns from Co Laois, who is also running for the top job, called on the members to remember what the IFA is all about: ‘There is no such thing as “The IFA.” We must remember that this is “Our IFA” and that’s what we must get back to.
It was also clear that farm incomes were very high on the agendas for both the members and the candidates: ‘There should be only one focus for any new president and chief executive. That must be farming and farm incomes and that is all,’ Joe Healy said.
Following the meeting, many IFA members said that they were impressed by the candidates: ‘I was impressed by what I’ve heard here tonight. I agree that there has been a lot of trust lost but I think we all have to get back to working for the families who depend on the IFA’s representation and support to maintain the farm incomes,’ Finn O’Mahony from the Kilcrohane and Durrus IFA told The Southern Star.