Farmers on €27k paid for €535k post - IFA salary scandal

THE political fallout from the IFA salary scandal may be more damaging to the organisation than the actual cost of the pay package of former general secretary Pat Smith.
Farmers on €27k paid for €535k post - IFA salary scandal

Mr Smith, whose remuneration package was €535,000 in 2013 and €445,000 last year, had led the farming lobby group since 2009 and held key roles in the organisation for 25 years.

Even going on last year’s figure, his package of basic pay, pension contribution, bonus and director’s fee was a grotesque amount and contrasts sharply with family farm incomes which currently run to less than €27,000 a year.

It is right that he should resign but it is also right that those who knew and approved of such payments should also consider their position.

Contrast has been made with the money paid to those heading the ICMSA and other farming organisations but it must be appreciated that the IFA is a huge — and hugely successful — organisation which is only partly a lobbying group. It is also a commercial enterprise that owns, for instance, FBD Insurance.

Nonetheless, what the disclosure of these huge payments show is a disconnect between those running the IFA and the farmers they represent. All around the country farmers on modest incomes were horrified and shocked at the amount of money Mr Smith was paid.

The revelations are also proving an unwelcome distraction from important issues like product prices and environment legislation, both of which affect farm incomes now and into the future.

Worst of all, though, has been the breach of trust between those at the top of the organisation and its members who pay their subscription every year from their hard-earned income.

The IFA Eyrecourt branch in Galway has already called for IFA president Eddie Downey to resign, with members saying it was unacceptable that he was aware of the pay package of the general secretary.

Mr Downey has conceded that such a pay package was unacceptable and not sustainable and has promised that, in the future, the pay of the IFA general secretary will be a matter of public record in the annual accounts.

Why could that not have happened before now?

Issues surrounding corporate governance were highlighted in August, 2014, by the organisation’s chief economist, Con Lucey, when he resigned as chairman of the IFA’s audit committee.

Considering his leading role in the organisation for almost 30 years and the fact that he was appointed chairman of the new oversight committee in 2013, why were Mr Lucey’s concerns not properly addressed?

Mr Downey and his senior colleagues have a lot of questions to answer.

A consensus has emerged among those who have voiced their opinions on the scandal on TV, radio, newspapers and online.

Most farm families would expect the IFA leader to get a decent salary — but not an indecent one.

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