LIVE: IFA Election debate from Limerick
Tonight we’re in Adare, Co. Limerick for the second week of the IFA presidential debates.
Limerick Co Chairman Aidan Gleeson will handle tonight’s guests and questions and we’ll be bringing you all the latest from the Woodlands Hotel. Proceedings will be underway from 20.30 and there will be no debates between the deputy candidates – Limerick is home to Richard Kennedy so no stepping on his toes tonight!
The live blog of IFA Presidential Debates from Adare, Co.Limerick has concluded now, you can follow all the action as it happened below.
Be sure to check out our dedicated IFA Elections Section to keep up to date
And that concludes tonight in Adare….
Well, Flor certainly got the room going with a strong finish and a rousing round of applause….
Flor McCarthy – 2 questions – who can change the organisation and help farm incomes – Flor McCarthy says he can! Elect me and I’ll deliver for you on livestock, dairy and beef. Munster is the home of farming….
Joe Healy – reminds the room of why we are all here tonight, extraordinary events and change has to happen to prevent this happening again.
Burns: 20 years plus involvement in IFA and not ashamed of it. Led two harding working, unite committees. Huge experience & all about the ‘we’ in IFA.
Ok, Aidan Gleeson is giving them one minute to sum up….and Henry takes to the floor
Burns – on Barry and Bergin – I am defiantly not going to comment on individuals…I won’t expose the organisation to further legal wrangles
Burns – I have a big concern about the trim in factories and I think there can be issues. It has been agreed that the trim would be fully monitored all the time
Henry Burns – levies – we need a grown up conversation on this. There won’t be the same amount of money without the money…
Joe Healy – on Barry and Bergin are in a position they did not expect to be in, until the issues are sorted out, until then the people need to support the organisation.
Joe Healy – there is a huge perception that the factory levy has created a conflict of interest and that perception is a reality.
Flor – on Bergin and Barry – won’t comment on rumour….
Call for Bryan Barry and Jer Bergin to maybe resign…..meanwhile, half the room has opted for coffee rather than listen to the last few answers….
Something positive….question/statement from the floor says the three candidates are impressive
Final questions….levies..did we not deal with this already???
Flor on milk price – well paid chief executives cannot buy product at world price, but must support prices to farmers. The 2016 price is not sustainable
Flor McCarthy – TTIP – these trade agreements have serious effects on us and our standards will have to be respected. GMOs – it has to be an equal playing field, but they are a reality of life….
Burns – you have to be smart about how you protest…the French dairy farmers have protested with slurry in supermarkets etc but have not got an extra cent and the current dairy price is not due to over production and he’s not in favour of bringing back milk quotas
Henry Burns – TTIP – the EU figures on TTIP says farmers would be big losers, so why would Ireland be in favour of it? The beef industry is more important in Ireland than the car industry in germany. US hormone beef is not acceptable in Europe. European consumers don’t want hormones on their beef and they are prepared to pay a bit more for it
Henry Burns – on GMO – we have GMOs in this country, we could not afford to feed chickens and pigs without GMO soya. I don’t see us growing a lot of GMO in Ireland. But the question is – being GMO free and green it’s only valuable if you can get more in the price for the farmer, you can’t have your hands tied behind your back and everyone having advantages over you.
Joe Healy – I do not agree with GMOs and we should not have GMOs – our marketing advantage is our green image.
Ok….a level playing pitch on GMO means nothing the man who asked the question says….Ireland did not opt out of GMO production last October, he says, and our green image is the most important thing and if we accept GMO food production we can wave goodbye to this image.
Joe Healy – the Con Lucey report was not independent enough and for it to be totally credible it should have been totally credible. GMOs – it has to be a level playing pitch if we are selling produce not the world market. TTIP – Eu agriculture can’t be sacrificial lamb in this. The fear is that Ireland, Poland and France who are against it.
Questions: Benchmarking of IFA salaries to the Civil Service will break the IFA… TTIP and GMO….and now a dairy question…French famers are protesting for the last 12 months…Irish dairy farmers have lost millions since quotas went…the IFA income will be zero if the milk price continues as is…inspections..this is a rambling question(s)
One last round of questions, Aidan Gleeson says the room is getting restless….must have been the talk of divorce….
Joe Healy – it costs €1,200 to get a pre nup and it lasts for 5 years, then you do a post nup…but most marriages fail before the first 24 months (healy say)….room seems relieved and happy most of them have survived this!!!
Joe Healy – Pre nuptials have no legal standing, but if the judge believes they make an appropriate account of both parties and the children they are being looked at reasonably…judges are changing their attituedes to them..
Flor – pre nuptial – a lot of farms are not being transferred because of the fear of break ups but IFA must take a position on it
Henry Burns – there has to be a system in place where the family farm can survive in the event of a break up. Its not easy sort this issue, what was in place before a person comes into a marriage can’t be all in place (in the event of a break up).
Ok, we’ve got a challenge from the floor….2,500 young farmers are unpaid for decoupled payment and no answer required but a challenge (publicly) to make this an issue for those young farmers and to bring them into the organisation….
Pre nuptial agreements being asked about…one of my neighbours says everyone is nervous even uttering those words….
Burns on BVD – Dept has to take some responsibility on taking out PIs, not up to just farmers….
Burns points out that he’s the youngest candidate in the race and says the IFA is very relevant to young farmers…”The IFA model of unity and work together works”. He’ll go back to being an ordinary farmer if he doesn’t become President, but still a loyal IFA man. “I’m not a hurler on the ditch and never will be….young famers have a place in IFA and I’m proof of that.”
Burns – says his experience in Europe is vital to this…
Henry Burns – intervention – there are lots of other things that will add a cent or two, but the EU has a job to do to protect family farms…do we want to protect family farms? Of course we do….
Healy – IFA allowed the Department to be slack on PI calves and allowing farmers to hold onto them
IFA branches should have at least four meetings per year, Healy says….
Joe Healy – generation gap – as former Pres of Macra says he understands this issue and IFA could do more…only a floor between them in the Farm Centre he says
Healy says Ornua says 24c/L may be the average price for the year, and they are positive for the year….butter volumes in the US are on the up….
Joe Healy – intervention is not the be all and end all for Irish dairy farmers, but it is at a ridiculously low level at 21c/L. The Russian Ban is hitting Irish farmers and they should be compensated for it. Interest rates in banks, he says, are 2% over the EU average
Flor = more young framers would get involved if they felt they could make an impact and it will help them. He says there are some issues with some chairmen, but those working must be supported
@FlorMcCarthy1 dairy crisis – forward contracts are the way to deal with this, that you forward sell milk. But also, the co-ops and Plcs must make provisions to pay a high end price for high end product farmers are producing
Generation gap in the room…are all the young people calving cows???
Right, the man with the question says people have no idea how much Musgraves or Larry Goodman is making…they don’t publish profitability, it’s protected and its at the expense of farmers and it’s a fundamental weakness “We are lost without being able to see how much profit Dunnes makes…until that’s sorted we’re going no where”
Flor McCarthy – loss leaders in supermarkets are not sustainable and the margins on products must be made known.
EU legislation is the only thing that is going to work, acc to Henry Burns, to contain retailer power
Henry Burns – we can dream about what we can do with supermarkets. Henry takes credit for getting rid of New Zealand lamb under his watch….but control is an issue – “we need supermarket regulation”
Joe Healy – farmers are told what they are going to get – they don’t get to ask what they want. “We probably don’t have enough research done on – heifer selling for €800 in the mart and she was followed through to the factor and retailed out at €2,000+ and we haven’t done enough research to see who gets what…
Practical suggestions only please and the asker wants to comment on the answers….
The Limerick question is about supermarket and buying power….what are we going to do about rebalancing this issue…
Right, time for another question…Pat Whelan, from Ardrahan, Galway takes the floor…oh no he’s not allowed ask, Limerick members only!
Healy is adamant IFA needs to move away from the levies
Ballyhaunis protest – when Joe Healy was told the protest was over and he saw lorries lining up to go into the factory…nearly drove him cracked…we need to stay at the gates until we get the result we want and that’s what will happen under his watch
Healy on Con Lucey report – the decentralisation of power dates back to the Dowling report….and many of the recommendations made at this time need to be reversed
Healy – “we can’t have a situation where the staff are dictating to the organisation”. More applause for him….
Healy says he got handed a letter before the debate tonight (I can vouch for this) and that inspections are a huge issue. He’s hitting the right notes with the crowd….
Joe Healy – Coveney has too many departments – farming does not have his 100% attention and the crowd agrees!
I now hear on the grapevine that Anne Gabbett cooks a great dinner….
Flor says he’ll examine levies within 100 days of taking office, but the organisation needs the money he says
Beef price and producer groups – Flor says the domainance of the big players has been an issue for a long time. “WE need more finishers back in the IFA”
Flor – Con Lucey report = the treasurer needs to be responsible for the writing of cheques but the next 2 years is vital for the organistaion. Wage structure, he says is a problem and must be dealt with
Flor – priorities – unite the organisation and get it back working; then deal with income crisis
Producer groups = Burns says the information claimed on IFA not supporting producer groups is not correct
This is a bit like a table quiz…the ‘professional’ supporters are taking notes on the questions
And this is why grouped questions don’t work…..an awful lot of talk and answers lost in the talk…
Burns though says the organisaiotn and members on the ground need to be protected with regards to employment law. Says being a listener has helped him over the years and says while things may not always go your way all the time…
Wages – we need transparency and what they are and how they are arrived at and a clear benchmarking procedure that shows the members where the money is going
Burns on Lucey report – some of it is taking us back where we were, to before the Dowling report set up in IFA. We need another layer of indepence on pay, how we set pay rates and how we hire people and how we make contracts etc we need to take very, very good advice on that
Henry Burns – on all those questions…”When I say transparency, I mean it. We need to know how much they are paid and we don’t know and how they are paid (benchmarking) and the members want to know this
Levies – get rid of them (round of applause to this). “You’re worried about the €4.5m, but is it about time all in IFA reduced their costs/expenses
IFA Livestock committee did not support the producer group idea (same man talking/asking)
But back to the question…staff salaries – they re above the Gen Sec of the Department of Ag. Are the candidates going to allow the staff of IFA dictate that their salaries are not made known….also he’s not happy over the past 20 years with IFA on beef. He hopes Henry Burns is disappointed with the last main beef protest…
Another question….They’re taking notes at the top table…no wonder….
Question from a Kilmallock man: “one of the three of you will be the most significant president in a generation. In 2 years time you’ll come back here a hero for rescuing an organiaont or taking the high road out. You have 2 years to rescue the organisation. The members are giving you 2 years to rescue the organisation. Actual question – to what extent will you drive the implementations of the Lucey report or are there any elements of it that you have fundamental objections?
Question: “Today farmers are responsible for 25% of Ireland’s net income but we are treated like slaves and dogs….we are under all this pressure and we see IFA running away with all this money. It was a shock to everyone. We need one strong farm organisation that is going to deliver for us farmers on the ground and this has not happened. We’re being made fools of and IFA has made fools of us. I want to look forward and want 100% transparency. The question is…(at last)…nope, shocked and stunned by the legal proceedings of Pat Smith…(still waiting on this question)…..
“Can we have the organisation we want without levies, probably not,” says Burns
Burns says IFA members can’t fight over the levy, we sort it out and move on or keep it and says it’s a good thing. “now there’s controversy around it and we need to have a real grown up discussion about it”
“The most disappointing thing for us all is that we understood the IFA President’s remuneration was that, to replace labour when you were away from the farm, not what it was,” Burns
Burns also says the golden handshake – he’s not in favour about it – but people should know if they want to know it, what others got
Henry Burns says credibility needs to be earned back…and the only way to do this is to be open about this and fight hard for farmers
Healy says it should be called an ‘IFA levy’ not the current EIF (european involvement fund) levy
Joe on levies = IFA turnover in 2015 was €12m and it cost €10m to run the org. “We can run the organisation more efficiently but we can’t cut services”
Remuneration committee will be set up and the President won’t sit on it….Joe says, but he doesn’t commit on whether he’ll go after paid monies….
Joe – Lucey report – it was split at Council recently whether the organisation should go back further or go forward and look to the future..
Joe – a lot of farmers have lost trust and we need to restore trust and re-connect with farmers
Joe Healy – credibility – three things will lead to this being restored – transparency, representation and deliver
Flor: levies are worth €4.7m (one third of IFA income) but he’s yet to hear an alternative to every farmer. Are people prepared to pay pro rata, based on farm size, he asks….
Levies – every member is entitled to know how much he’s paying on levies and where it’s going (Flor)
Flor: credibility – hopefully with a new president we can clear up the issue of pay to the satisfaction of the 29 county execs. “We have to have absolute transparency going forward”
Another question (I don’t like this grouped questioning): The situation with the levies has never been dealt with; how are they going to deal with the levy situation and balance the books if the levies are got rid of?
And now for the questions…credibility is a key issue and Lucey report says that two former presidents received a substantial payment when leaving office…this man wants to know who signed off on them and if they’ll take action to recover this money
Looks like (by the clap-o-meter) that Flor has a lot of supporters in the room!
“We need more than our single farm payment. We need a return from the market place and we as an organisation need to demand this”
Beef farmers can’t produce to a price differential to the UK, McCarthy says and farmers can’t be producing to the highest standards but are not getting the highest prices
Dairy farmers, he says, are needed by the Plcs and co-ops and the challenge for IFA exists here – getting a minimum price (30c/L) is needed to keep dairy farmers in a family farm set up
“We need to get the cuts to the disadvantage area scheme reversed” McCarthy says
There is still unfinished business with GLAS, McCarthy says, although the amount in it is substantial
“We as leaders have to give direction, but we need your support. You don’t realise how important your support is…regardless of who we are meeting” McCarthy says
McCarthy says a person with strength (him) is needed to drive the industry on
And now we’ve Flor McCarthy…and he’s outlining his farm and family to the crowd
Being an outsider in this election, he says, is good!
Minister Coveney had a ‘slow’ reaction to the ABP/Slaney deal, Healy says and it’s more competition, not less, beef farmers need
Healy claims an actuary student couldn’t understand the current factory pricing situation….
Young farmers have been let down by CAP and not being treated equally, Healy says and must be done in the future through a robust charter of rights for farmers
Pay structure and collection of levies need to be addressed, Healy says, as priorities for the organisation, up there with farm incomes, flooding, broadband and young famers (and lots of other stuff I couldn’t type quickly enough to get) Sorry Joe!
Healy’s all about change…and says the branch structure needs to be reactivated
“An extraordinary set of events, which brought us to our knees, has led to this election. we have one chance to put this right and rebuild this organisation” and Joe clearly things he’s the man to do so
Now it’s Joe Healy’s turn to take to the stage. He’s wondering why everyone is here tonight….
Burns parting words are: competition is a huge issue for farmers and legislation at European level is necessary. Thanked the floor for support when he was Livestock Chairman.
Transparency and control at EU level are necessary in the beef industry, Burns says
Burns says the protest outside Slaney forced Minister Coveney to make a submission on the ABP/Slaney deal. “I want to hear what the Minister has to say on it”
The Goodman buy out of Slaney, Burns says, that its important this deal does not go through
Bringing back milk quotas is not a real flyer, Burns says, but a better intervention price is
Back to Henry, he sounds angry…”we have to have a stronger intervention price or we won’t have the family farm in Ireland”
Delighted to say that most of the 180 seats are full….it was looking a little empty
In the first 12 months Burns says, if elected, he’ll review the funding of the organisaiotn and that will involve change (huge change), but needs agreement of the membership
Henry Burns is first up and is staring with the IFA….and…”who is the IFA? And why is it not MY IFA” The feeling of ownership and partaking in the organisation has been missing for a while, he says
Paul Maher, a Burns supporter from Mountmellick, is glued to my left and Ann Gabbett, from Richard Kennedy’s home branch, is behind me…she’s was a big fan of the blog from Roscrea (as she was stuck at home that night!)
Finally, it’s starting…..
And for the Deputy President candidate supporters there is not debate tonight, due to it being the home county of Richard Kennedy….so official start time is 20.30 for the main show….
Poster of the night award goes to…….@
And bonus points for having the gumption to put it up on stage!!
And there’s only 180 seats…empty…
In case anyone in the Woodlands Hotel was in doubt…here’s where you need to go….