A FORMER garda was last night elected president of the 87,000 member Irish Farmers Association.
It was a decisive victory for 51-year-old John Bryan, Cappagh, Inistioge, Co Kilkenny, in the countrywide poll of the IFA’s 947 branches in 29 county executives.
He secured 1,147 branch votes (56%), 130 over the quota, and was declared elected on the first count by national returning officer Ruaidhri Deasy.
There were scenes of great jubilation as his supporters hailed the election of the first Kilkenny president in the IFA history of almost 55 years.
Two other candidates also contested the election – deputy president Derek Deane, Hacketstown, Co Carlow, who secured 568 branch votes (28%) and dairy committee chairman Richard Kennedy, Clarina, Co Limerick, who got 316 branch votes (16%).
There was a record poll of around 40,000 farmers, nearly 50% of the IFA’s membership. The election involved a weighted voting system that gave extra votes to those branches with high turnouts
Mr Bryan, who served as a garda for three years at Pearse Street Station in Dublin before becoming a full-time farmer, is the current IFA county chairman in Kilkenny.
He was delighted to have been elected national president with a clear and strong grassroots mandate from all sectors of farming. He believed he had won every province including a landslide in Connacht.
Mr Bryan called on the Government to recognise the huge economic, environmental and social contribution that farmers are making to the fabric of rural Ireland. He said he always felt he was the candidate the farmers wanted and had been confident of victory. Each of the presidential candidates had travelled all over the country and took part in 14 head-to-head debates.
Mr Bryan described farm incomes as the big crisis. Costs had rocketed and prices for all commodities are the same as they were 30 years ago.
He said it was time to return to basic values and common sense regarding farm scheme regulations.
On his own leadership style, he said is a negotiator and has always been one, even when he was a garda on the beat in Dublin. Ensuring that farmers are treated as equal partners with Government, processors and retailers will dominate his agenda, he said.
He and his wife, Rena, have two children, Cathy and James. The family started farming in 1980 with 89 acres and no stock. The Bryans are now farming 230 acres, 170 owned and 60 rented. Their farming operation consists of 75 suckler cows with all the progeny, as well as some purchased weanlings, sold as beef.
As a former IFA livestock committee chairman, Mr Bryan played a key role in the campaign to ban Brazilian beef imports into the EU.
A board member of Kilkenny Co-op Marts, he has served on the EU Beef Advisory Committee, the Bord Bia Livestock Board and the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation board.
Eddie Downey, Slane, Co Meath, was elected deputy president, defeating Sean O’Leary, Mourneabbey, Co Cork.
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