The festivities are in recognition of the decision taken in 1987, by the then Cork county-wide IFA executive, to create three distinct divisions. The change was instituted with very few objections, with most members accepting that the county was just too big for people to attend meetings.
In the intervening years, Cork’s three executives have gone from strength to strength within the IFA. Tonight in Springfort Hall, Mallow, guests of honour IFA president John Bryan and former general secretary Michael Berkery, will join hundreds of North Cork members in celebrating the positives of the past 25 years.
West Cork’s silver jubilee dinner took place last Saturday night in the Parkway Hotel, Dunmanway. Central is not holding an event, as its existence effectively predated the 1987 restructuring of the county.
Cork Central IFA chairman Jimmy Hosford said: “There were obvious practical reasons to create three executives. You couldn’t keep asking somebody from Beara to attend meetings in the city, it’s just too far away.
“Cork is a big county. All three of its executives are still three of the biggest groups in the IFA, both in terms of membership and agricultural output. Even with three groups, we are not over-represented at national level.”
North Cork chairwoman Mary Twomey Casey adds: “I would commend the people for what they did at the time. It was the right decision. Now, 25 years on, we are all working together, Cork has seven people on the IFA’s national council. It is never easy to represent every sector, but somehow the IFA always seems to manage it.”
Current North Cork president Richard Quirke was the division’s first chairman in 1987. Along with fellow North Cork man Donal Horgan and West Cork’s Dan Joe O’Donovan, he was also instrumental in the 1987 restructuring.
Mr Quirke recalls: “Historically, all across the Rebel County there was an army barracks every 10 miles. They were there for a reason. We’ve had a lot of strong characters here over the past 25 years.
“We’ve been very well served by people like Tony O’Regan, the national horse chairman; and Tom Dunne, who chaired the industry and transport committee through the nitrates directive, ensuring that farmers were properly compensated for their loss of land; Pat O’Keeffe, chairman of the pigs committee; and Sean O’Leary, who spent four years as Munster vice-president.”
Strong characters were also evident among the 300 West Cork IFA members, who celebrated in style in the Parkway Hotel in Dunmanway last Saturday night.
Mr Bryan paid a glowing tribute to members in the region for their great loyalty, as evidenced over the years by their presence at meetings, parades, and demonstrations at home or in Brussels.
IFA general secretary Pat Smith complimented the Cork members on both their lobbying activities on their farm efficiency. IFA development officer Sean Clarke recalled his memories of the early years in the evolution of the West Cork division.
Munster vice-president Chris Hayes said it was an honour to represent West Cork, whose 40 branches make the region much larger than most counties. He paid tribute to those who had the courage and willpower of Denis O’Regan, Michael Dunne, Jack O’Sullivan, Donal Kelly, and others who established West Cork IFA in 1987.
Goleen-based West Cork chairman Richard Connell said: “The 25th anniversary was an occasion that needed to be marked. The county has thrived since, so it was clearly the right thing to do. We had a great turnout, especially given the challenges people are facing at present.”
Mr Connell had a special welcome for John Coleman of Cobh, who was chairman of the Cork county executive when the county was divided. He paid tribute to their first chairman, Neily O’Leary, and made a special presentation to Jim Morris, Factna O’Callaghan, and Jackie O’Sullivan, all three of whom took part in the farmers’ march to Dublinin 1966.
Mr Connell also paid tribute to the region’s main sponsor AIB, as well as to the four West Cork co-ops, the Carbery Group, Cork Marts, and to FBD Insurance for their sponsorship of the anniversary function.