THURLES farmer Jackie Cahill has been re-elected as president of the Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), but only after a nail-biting photo-finish.
Mr Cahill yesterday retained the office he has held for the past four years, but only by the narrow margin of 54 votes to 45. After weeks of intense lobbying, Cahill saw off a strong challenge from Pat O’Rourke, the Longford man who was his immediate predecessor as president.
All 99 members of the National Council attended yesterday’s election at Limerick’s Carlton Castletroy Park Hotel. The election was contested on geographical grounds, as had been widely speculated in the farming press in recent weeks.
Cahill captured most of the vote from Munster and south Leinster, while O’Rourke dominated in Connaught and the northern counties.
Cahill, a 47-year old farmer from Thurles, Co Tipperary, will serve an additional two years as president, giving him the maximum term permissible of six years. Those in the dairy sector will see his victory as vindication of the association’s determined attacks on dairy policies of the Government and the European Commission.
Mr Cahill has repeatedly called for farm organisations to move away from what he terms “protest for protest’s sake” and into the areas of independent analysis and research so that rational counter-arguments can be made when the interests of farmers are challenged.
He led the ICMSA’s condemnation of the Government and the Commission’s dairy policy. He was very critical of the continued expansion of milk quotas when milk price was collapsing. Mr Cahill described this move as the “economics of the madhouse”.
He was also scathing of those who called on dairy farmers to increase milk production to make up for the fall in their milk price by pointing out that it was a surplus of production that had caused the price collapse in the first place.
The ICMSA solution of a supply-management system designed to keep a balance between production and demand has gained wide acceptance within the sector, with its emphasis on the need for a stable ‘floor’ price while allowing for the flexibility to increase production in line with market demand.
Mr Cahill also led the ICMSA into membership of the European Milk Board (EMB).
Castlebar farmer John Comer has been elected deputy president, a role vacated by John O’Leary from Killarney. Comer defeated Clare farmer Martin McMahon, who chairs the ICMSA’s beef and cattle committee. This was also close, with Comer winning by 51 to 48.
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