The deadline for applications to succeed former IFA president Eddie Downey passed at 5.30pm yesterday, with three nominees in contention for the top job in the country’s largest farming representative body. An April election is likely.
IFA livestock chairman Henry Burns from Laois, and Galway farmer Joe Healy, a former president of Macra Na Feirme, were the first two candidates to lodge papers, both having secured the required backing of six county executives.
Flor McCarthy, the IFA rural development chairman, from Co Kerry, was the next to secure his nomination for the presidency, while another possible candidate, IFA poultry committee chaiman Nigel Renaghan, said he was not putting his name forward. He is likely to focus instead on the race for the role of deputy president.
The presumption was that two men were then in the running for the last nomination: Acting president and former deputy IFA president Tim O’Leary, who stepped into the breach following the resignation of Mr Downey last November; and Derek Deane, the Carlow county chairman, who triggered the revelations over salary scales within the IFA hierarchy last autumn.
Ultimately, neither got the backing of enough county executives to enter the race. It is understood both were one county nomination shy of qualifying.
Henry Burns was nominated by Laois, Wexford, Kildare, Offaly, Kilkenny, and Wicklow. Joe Healy was nominated by Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, Leitrim, and Donegal, while Flor McCarthy was nominated by Kerry, Clare, Waterford, Tipperary South, Louth, and Meath.
The election is likely to take place in April, when all other national positions, including that of deputy president and regional chairpersons, will also be filled. It is likely to be the start of February before the candidate list for those roles is finalised.
Mr Downey stepped aside from his role as president and resigned shortly afterwards amid continuing revelations over the salary paid to former IFA secretary general Pat Smith, the pay packet awarded to IFA presidents, and the terms of Mr Smith’s severance package which quickly became an issue of dispute and which may end up in the courts.
The events had been preceded by the resignation in 2014 of former IFA chief economist Con Lucey, who had been asked back by Mr Downey to review the internal workings of the organisation but who claimed his work was being hindered.
Mr Lucey resumed that review last November and presented his findings at an IFA meeting on December 15.
Another meeting of the 53 member IFA executive council this week put in place a timetable for the elections, stated the IFA would operate under collective leadership until the elections are over, and also that all those filling top positions in the organisation in future will serve two-year terms, rather than four.