Should Downey get the chance to tell his story?

Eddie Downey, the former president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), has asked for an invitation to speak, in camera, at the farm body’s upcoming national council meeting in Dublin.

The meeting, which was expected to take place tomorrow night, has been cancelled due to deteriorating weather conditions.

Although Downey has yet to receive a response to his request, he publicly stated the reasoning behind this appeal at a Co. Meath IFA annual general meeting in Navan last Monday night (February 26).

A source close to Downey told AgriLand that the Slane-based farmer wants to “set the record straight” on the timeline, and events, that resulted in his resignation from the association in November 2015.

The source said that, after two years, Downey wants to let IFA members, and the general public, know exactly what happened; how negotiations were handled and to identify the main players involved.

“The version that is out there is completely wrong. Nobody objected to signing the severance package; everybody encouraged it; that’s the story Downey wants to tell,” the source claimed.

Downey stepped down from the presidency following the much-publicised IFA pay controversy over the salary of former general secretary of the IFA, Pat Smith – whose severance package had been agreed at circa €2 million at the time (2015).

After a drawn out legal ordeal over the terms of Smith’s departure package, plus a separate defamation action, a settlement was reached between Smith and the IFA last week.

A €1.55 million severance package was agreed and a settlement of €350,000 was reached for the subsequent defamation case.

Although at the time media reports alleged that Downey “acted alone” in signing off on the remuneration deal, he is apparently anxious to share his own personal account of how the events unfolded.

At the meeting in Navan, Downey himself said: “I’ve waited long enough to tell the truth about what happened in that room.

“Reports at the time said that Eddie Downey acted alone. This is not true. This is defamation,” he added, whilst speaking at that meeting.

All that I did that day was approved; at every step I sought and received approval. Why can I not tell the truth now?

“Why can others damage my reputation? I’m requesting the opportunity to address the council meeting in camera. It’s not acceptable that I cannot tell the truth. I wish to be treated in the same manner as every other former president of the IFA,” he said.

However, Downey made it clear at the county executive meeting in Navan that he couldn’t comment directly on the outcome of last week’s settlement.

In the months following the controversy, Downey expressed that there were issues he wanted resolved and that he was eager to get the “accurate information” out to members.

I have been silenced over the last few years; it has been horrendous. I know what really happened and it has been very difficult to watch people that have misled our organisation and yet they continue to operate at the same level within it.

“The national council of the IFA was misled by national officers and staff,” stated Downey last Monday night.

It is understood that Downey, who is still an active and passionate member of the farming organisation, has requested a statement from the IFA to affirm that “Eddie Downey did not act on his own; that he had financial and legal advice and the support of national officers”.