New president Joe Healy has pledged greater transparency in the IFA, after a low election turnout pointed to the challenges ahead for IFA’s 15th president.
Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney led the welcomes for the 49-year-old, who scooped 50% of the 28,093 votes cast.
However, that was only a 37% turnout of the 75,501 members eligible to vote, which indicates the depth of ill-feeling left by revelations, last November, of IFA’s internal workings, including the large pay and pension entitlements of former general secretary Pat Smith.
Smith and the then IFA president, Eddie Downey, left the organisation amid controversy, and, last month, IFA revealed a 14% fall in its membership, from 88,000 farmers in 2013.
IFA has also been hit by the reaction to its fight against the EU’s CAP reform proposals to divide €1.2m of annual payments more evenly among Irish farmers.
Healy, a dairy and cattle farmer at Athenry, Co Galway, hit the ground running in his first days on the job, with important meetings in Brussels and with Glanbia.
In the election first count, he secured 14,122 votes (50%), just over the quota of 14,047, compared to 8,540 (30%) for IFA livestock chairman, Henry Burns, Laois, and 5,431 (19%) for IFA rural development chairman, Flor McCarthy, Kerry.
Healy was the winner in 18 counties, sweeping the vote in his native Connacht, but also in Cork Central and Cork North, Tipperary North and South, and from Donegal to Wexford.
Burns was the choice in much of Leinster — in Westmeath, Wicklow, Monaghan, Offaly, Longford, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, and Carlow.
Only Cork West and Kerry sided with McCarthy. Like Healy, Richard Kennedy, the IFA’s new deputy president, may also have gained votes, because he wasn’t a member of IFA’s national executive at the time of its recent controversies.
The Clarina, Co Limerick dairy farmer hoovered up the Munster vote, with 40% of first-count votes, compared to 31% for Kildare IFA chairman, Pat Farrell, and 29% for IFA poultry committee chairman, Nigel Renaghan.
The second count resulted in Kennedy winning with 56% of votes, the choice in 13 counties or regions, compared to Farrell’s 44%, winning 16 counties or regions.
The vote for Munster chairman went to only one count, with John Coughlan, a mixed-enterprise farmer from Buttevant, Co Cork, securing 66% of the vote, compared to 34% for Barryroe, West Cork dairy farmer, John O’Brien.
Only Waterford and Cork Central sided with O’Brien, of the nine IFA regions in Munster.
Returned unopposed were James Murphy, as south Leinster IFA chairman, and Bert Stewart, as Ulster-north Leinster chairman.
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