The election race is heating up for a senior position within the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), as the husting process passes the halfway stage.

Nigel Renaghan from Co. Monaghan and James Speares from Co. Cavan are contesting the race to become the association’s regional chairman for Ulster / North Leinster.

Over the past week two weeks, both candidates have been travelling around to various county meetings in the region to partake in a husting process.

During these meetings – which have already taken place in counties Donegal, Meath, Westmeath and Longford – Renaghan and Speares have made their pitch to IFA members as to why they are the best candidate to hold the role for the next four years, as well as taking questions from the floor.

Whichever candidate is successful will replace Bert Stewart from Co. Monaghan as chairman.

Addressing the meeting in the Longford Arms Hotel, Speares – who is the outgoing Cavan IFA chairman  – outlined his decades of experience within the organisation as a huge bonus.

“I have experience, determination, a strong work ethic and a good understanding of policies. I’m passionate about farming and I’m fifth generation on our farm.

“We need a strong IFA and we need strong support,” Speares – who is a dairy and beef farmer – said.

Meanwhile, Renaghan – who is the outgoing IFA Poultry Committee chairman – believes that farmers need to feel involved in the association and that the IFA needs to attract new membership blood.

As a poultry and beef farmer, Renaghan believes that he has the best interests of farmers at heart and that he has the enthusiasm and ability to deliver results for IFA members.

Following the debate, branch members then cast their votes after the candidates, and then their supporters from outside the county, left the room.

Potential outcome

As it stands, there is very little separating the two candidates. Meetings in Cavan and Monaghan next week, Speares’ and Renaghan’s native counties respectively, are expected to have a big impact on the race.

The concluding meeting will take place in Co. Louth on Thursday, December 14. A count will then take place on Friday, December 15 – following which the winner will be announced.

The IFA Executive Council passed a rule change this year whereby votes of the branch delegates at the county executive meetings will be weighted according to the membership of that branch, replacing the link to turnout in the presidential election.

Eight to 25 such members constitute one vote and every additional 25 such members, or part thereof, constitute one additional identical vote. County officers also hold a single vote.

IFA positions

The Ulster / North Leinster chairman sits on the association’s President’s Committee, alongside: current IFA president, Joe Healy; IFA deputy president, Richard Kennedy; the IFA treasurer; and the other three regional chairmen.

Presently, Jer Bergin holds the role as treasurer; but his position is also up for contention at the moment. Earlier this year, Healy was returned unopposed to his role as president. Similarly, Kennedy was also returned unopposed.

As well as this, the former chairman of Wicklow IFA – Tom Short – was nominated unchallenged for the position of the IFA’s South Leinster regional chairman. He will succeed James Murphy, who will complete his second term at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in January 2018.

Both the IFA’s Munster regional chairman, John Coughlan, and the organisation’s Connacht regional chairman, Padraic Joyce, were also nominated and returned unopposed.