BY KIERAN O’MAHONY
IN the wake of the controversial resignation of Pat Smith as general secretary of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) following revelations that his salary for 2013 was €535,000, West Cork farmers were quite animated at Bandon Mart when we asked some them this week how they felt about the situation.
Brian White from Minane Bridge said ‘it’s a disgrace and I think the IFA president should also resign too. I will be stopping my IFA payments in the wake of this.’
John Murphy from Bantry said: ‘It’s an outrage.’
Jimmy Hurley from Drinagh said ‘it was definitely too much money and he was right to resign.’
Kevin Lynch from Bandon said ‘that was a ridiculous amount of money to be earning and there’s probably a lot more on the same earnings. I mean the Taoiseach doesn’t even earn that.’
Finbarr Kirby from Reenascreena said ‘it was ridiculous for anyone to say they didn’t know about the salary.’
Tom Buttimer from Clonakilty said: ‘It’s a bit of disgrace that they publicised the single payment, so why couldn’t they publicise his salary.’
One farmer, who did not wish to give his name, said Pat Smith didn’t go soon enough and he should have given himself a pay cut.
The West Cork farmers’ fury reflected the national consensus among IFA members and saw its national president Eddie Downey ‘step back’ from his role while former IFA economist Con Lucey carries out a review of remuneration of the organisation’s top people, which saw former general secretary Pat Smith receive a package worth just under €1m in the years 2013 and 2014 alone.
It emerged following a meeting of the IFA’s top officers and executives in Dublin on Monday night that Eddie Downey, as president of the association, was receiving €147,000. His role will be taken over for the time being by vice-president Tim O’Leary from Carrigrohane, near Cork City, who receives an annual allowance of €35,000.
Apologising to farmers and describing Mr Smith’s remuneration package as ‘indefensible,’ Mr O’Leary promised that, arising from Con Lucey’s comprehensive review, ‘there will be full transparency from now on’ and that the pay package of any future general secretary will be disclosed in the annual accounts.
Following Eddie Downey’s ‘step back,’ call from farmers for him to resign intensified midweek. The West Cork IFA executive met in Dunmanway on Tuesday evening to get the reaction of members before chairman Richard Connell conveyed their views to a national executive meeting in Dublin this Wednesday.