The IFA presidential debates start tonight in North Tipperary and we’ll bring you full coverage from the first debate in our live blog.

Agriland Editor Margaret Donnelly and journalist Amy Forde will be on site in Roscrea to cover the Deputy President debate and the headline debate as Henry Burns, Joe Healy and Flor McCarthy go head to head.

The live blog is now finished, you can review the events below

7:27 pm

The format for tonight is that the Deputy President candidates (3 – Nigel Renaghan, Pat Farrell and Richard Kennedy) will be given 5 mins each, then questions from the floor

7:27 pm

After the Deputy debate, it will be the time for the presidential candidates ( 3- Henry Burns, Joe Healy and Flor McCarthy) will be given 10 mins each and then questions from the floor

8:07 pm

You’ve got to run a gauntlet of flyers and stickers to getting into the debate!!

8:09 pm

Co Chairman Tim Cullinan kicks off the debate introducing Pat Farrell who is running for Deputy

8:10 pm

Farrell promises that every IFA member will know his number!

8:12 pm

A four-month wait for Basic Payment is intolerable acc to Farrell

8:13 pm

Richard Kennedy now takes to the floor and gives an outlines of his farm – dairying and beef production

8:17 pm

“I believe I have the experience, decivesness (sp!) and credibility to fix the issues in IFA

8:18 pm

Richard Kennedy says IFA levies being collected by meat factors are not an issue for him, albeit it is for some farmers

8:21 pm

Monaghan man Nigel Renaghan says his priorities family farms and protecting them is what he wants

8:23 pm

Renaghan says he’s ashamed about the €500,000 salaries IFA was paying

8:32 pm

The candidates are now being asked questions from the floor – rural roads are brought up and the state that they are in

8:33 pm

8:34 pm

Kennedy replies that the farmers are the custodians of the countryside and they need to get around and that it’s vital that the roads are improved

8:34 pm

Unfortunately the broadband here in the hotel is pretty poor guys, apologies for the slow updates

8:38 pm

The next issue brought up is the Farmers’ Charter

8:42 pm

Only standing room at tonight’s packed event!

8:44 pm

Farm incomes – how will the candidates tackle this serious situation

8:45 pm

Nigel Renaghan – I have proved in my two years as commodity chairman that i have increased the margin for farmers

8:48 pm

Pat Farrell – the focus of IFA has been wrong for too long, we need to be back lobbying to get farm incomes back in. The general secretary needs one focus – farm incomes

8:49 pm

Richard Kennedy – retailers are squeezing the margins for farmers. All family farm enterprises must be sustainable with profitability . We are not getting the price at the market place for our premium product

8:54 pm

Control of the meat industry and the competition authority’s role now being discussed. But no real answers….

8:56 pm

Ruaidhi Deasy is in the crowd tonight as is former President John Donnelly

8:58 pm

So, we’ve agreement (round of applause in other words) that Irish produce is premium and Bord Bia needs to up its game and sell it as premium product

8:59 pm

Splinter groups now the topic and how the candidates would reunite the IFA….

8:59 pm

The malting barley farmers are in the process of setting up their own organisation, the hill/marginal guys set up their own in the past year or so, leaving IFA

9:00 pm

Richard says from top down decisions should be made listening to those on the ground – the ordinary producer. “Its about being involved at ground level”

9:02 pm

Nigel – says they’re not splinter groups but frustrated farmers – frustrated with the lack of delivery of IFA. “If there was more men like me who listened to ‘unity, strength and delivery’ we wouldn’t have splinter groups

9:03 pm

“Interference (into commodity committees/chairs) from the General Secretary was what was wrong” – Nigel Renaghan

9:04 pm

Pat Farrell – it’s unfortunate that IFA let those people (splinter groups) go. We need to sit down with them, find out what’s wrong and deliver for them. If we deliver for them, they will come back. We are far stronger united. I would appeal to them to come back into IFA”

9:05 pm

So the round up – one minute each….

9:05 pm

Renaghan – I have delivered and proven I have delivered. If you feel you need a margin I’m your man!

9:07 pm

Popular guy Nigel with the crowd…

9:08 pm

Richard – the first thing that needs to happen in IFA is that we need to fix it! We can’t be oblivious to the fact that the association is in a very poor state. I have a track record of deciviesness (still can’t spell that word) and good leadership right through a lifetime.

9:10 pm

Popular too with the crowd is Richard

9:10 pm

Pat Farrell says is about delivery and reforming the IFA. I will support the president and make sure that happens. My only focus will be to raise farm incomes

9:11 pm

Hmmmm, the gossipy chaps down the back of the room say ‘they’re all fierce watery’

9:12 pm

Ok, it’s a packed room alright now, all seats taken….as the main debate is about to start

9:14 pm

9:15 pm

9:15 pm
We’ve updated our seats for better Wi-Fi Signal!

9:17 pm

So, Tim Cullinan begins the introduction of the three main men tonight – Henry Burns, Joe Healy and Flor McCarthy with Burns taking the floor first

9:17 pm

Burns brought lots of supporters – that’s for sure – and stickers in the Burns camp!

9:17 pm

Burns gives an overview of his farm…you can read all about it here…

9:18 pm

“It pains me to hear good long term members of IFA say ‘the IFA this and that’ sure it should not be the IFA…it should be OUR IFA….why has it come to this?” Burns

9:20 pm

Burns is delivering a good, strong speech it has to be said

9:20 pm

Good round of appluse greets him after it…oh not, just a pause….

9:21 pm

IFA members have been misled – including Burns. “We were told things that didn’t turn out to be true. We need a huge amount of transparency”

9:22 pm

€26,000 is the average farm income, over €10k less than average industrial wage Burns says. “that average farm income is not acceptable”

9:23 pm

“Volatility in dairy farming will crash the Irish family farm…it’s not acceptable” Burns

9:24 pm

The IFA Slaney protest Burns says is a sign IFA is getting back to work

9:25 pm

Burns calls on Minister Coveney to give an actual view on Larry Goodman taking a stake in Slaney Foods

9:26 pm

“We have to get Phil Hogan to write down the CAP policy for the next Commissioner and we can’t accept any more cuts to the budget”

9:29 pm

“Our IFA, the IFA I joined and strived and worked for and stuck with all the way, because I believe in working every day I get up to improve farm incomes, to represent farmers and put the farmers side of the story across to the Minister and factories or whoever. The work and experience at European level makes me fit to hit the ground running now, which the IFA needs. We have six months of turmoil. We need experience. I’m your man”

9:30 pm

Joe Healy also brought his support tonight :-)

9:31 pm

9:32 pm

“The IFA was built on farmers sacrifice and solidarity and sincerity over decades…we can’t and won’t allow a few months of turmoil destroy it. I will make it an organisation farmers will want to be and be proud to be part of. But change must occur for this to happen, which I will drive”

9:33 pm

Ooooh, he’s correcting Burns figure of €26,000 for the average farm income – Healy says it was €24,000 in 2015

9:35 pm

“The factories have every sort of a price, except a good price.”

9:37 pm

Large scale investment has left many dairy farmers under pressure, according to Healy

9:38 pm

More forward contracts are needed from co-ops, while the Russian ban must be eased. “Farmers cannot be left to carry the can for political decisions”

9:40 pm

Healy also looking for the tillage farmers vote, and he’s also touched on pigs, poultry and mushrooms

9:42 pm

Healy wraps up (well over his 10 mins!) on his achievements and track record over the years…also gets great support from the floor

9:42 pm

Oh no a Roscommon car is blocking someone in…please move it!!!

9:43 pm

9:44 pm

So Flor, last but by no means least, takes to the podium. Again his full profile is here…

9:45 pm

Flor is giving us a quick account of his experience in IFA and says IFA is a very successful organisation over the past 60 years and says the recent damage will be resolved. “We are here to hear why IFA can move forward”

9:47 pm

Some of the deputy candidates could really extend the courtesy of not talking during the president’s debate…justsaying

9:48 pm

“We don’t write the cheques, we are a lobbying group. We are a strong group and will drive forward in the future”

9:50 pm

“We are producing quality product and the price farmers are getting is not acceptable” says Flor

9:54 pm

Inspections a real issue on farms, Flor says, and the dread farmers have of inspectors must be addressed

9:59 pm

First question from the floor is from Upperchurch…what will IFA to do to get people back into the organisation and that Presidents seem to forget about the ordinary farmers once elected…round of applause to this…

10:00 pm

Flor says the organisation has to get back to connecting with people on the ground and that when negotiations fails with factories etc then further action is needed

10:02 pm

Joe Healy says re price – farmers returns are measured in price and supports and we have to be absolutely assured whatever the market is capable of returning.

10:08 pm

Henry Burns says he’s been involved in IFA because he felt he could make a change and wouldn’t ask anyone to do something he wouldn’t’ do himself….his story of sleeping in a caravan for 17 nights is highly popular!

10:10 pm

IFA handling and ineptitude in dealing with grain farmers problems has been disgraceful, one Laois grower says. “It’s not enough to say bring back IFA, it’s about doing something…lots of fools in IFA too and they’ll do their best to shut people up”

10:11 pm

“I hope we never see the likes of that behaviour again.” Question – what are you going to eliminate this type of behaviour again?

10:14 pm

Henry – the committee system in IFA does work and can work. The views have to come forward and be listened to and taken on as membership view. “The whole grain thing in general…its difficult to get a premium for malting barley…we have to drive on the agenda…through the committee…its the democratic way”

10:15 pm

Flor – the point about committees is relevant, a lot of people think they are not listened to. I would be proposing that the commercial side of IFA – is managed by someone and the organisation goes back to representing its members

10:17 pm

Flor – the levy is nearly half the income of the organisation. We cannot work off half the income of the organsation and have an organisation that functions…

10:19 pm

Joe Healy – export figures around whiskey won’t keep malting barley growers happy. All they want is to feel is that the organisation they pay their membership to listens to them.

10:21 pm

Joe Healy – the levies are a huge issue, but no levy should have to be paid, any levy that a farmer pays should be voluntary

10:21 pm

New General Secretary role and financing now being asked….

10:24 pm

Joe Healy – the new General Secretary – is crucial job and it was linked to the salary of the Gen Sec at the Dept of Ag. But that link was broken. The problem was the IFA gen secretary salary went in the other direction. People feel if the Gen Sec is on a good salary he must do a good job. There should not be a need for a bonus. Answer – the farmers I have met if there was something to hang the Gen Sec salary on – level playing field with Sec Gen in the Dept of Ag. and right now they are on about €180-190k

10:26 pm

Flor McCarthy – must be a good manager of people. Must understand how IFA operates. Fixed term, four year contract, subject to review is also necessary. Link to the Sec Gen of the Department of Agriculture salary

10:28 pm

Henry Burns – the buck stops with the elected members. We are the farmers and the bosses. It should not be a decision for any one person. It must be open and transparent setting of the wage, similar to the Sec Gen of the Dept of Ag. Independent advice is also needed.

10:30 pm

Ok, the candidates need more concise answers…losing the back of the room about 2mins into each answer

10:34 pm

Total fail bringing in the coffee while the debate is still going going on…back quarter of the room is enjoying a coffee with the biscuits…

10:37 pm

Last question of the night is about the Con Lucey report and why all that was seen was wages for the General Secretary – what about the other highly paid staff of IFA?

10:38 pm

Flor McCarthy – there are issues still in the organisation to be dealt with. that report was done is a short period and there is more work to be done to address other issues around the structure of the organisation

10:39 pm

Henry Burns – we have not gone far enough and we need to bring in independent people to go through that

10:41 pm

Joe Healy – people feel the Con Lucey report did not go far enough. Everything has to be transparent – not down to the last cent

10:42 pm

Ok a commitment on rural roads from the floor is the last request of the night by the looks of it….good job, a third of the room has stopped listening…

10:57 pm

Chats are breaking out at the back of the room – some energy in them biscuits!

11:00 pm

The candidates are given a minute now to say why they should be the next president

11:01 pm

Flor – ‘I have the experience and know where the problems are and ready to hit the ground running’

11:02 pm

Joe – ‘I intend to rebuild this great organisation and needs to adapt and change. I will deliver that change and ensure country executives are involved in the decision making process.’

11:05 pm

Henry – ‘I’ve put my heart and soul into IFA for no reward and for some reward. The difficult days were always there and I never ran away from it. I have the hard yards done in the trenches.’

11:12 pm

That’s the end of tonight’s debate from Roscrea – thanks for joining us and hope you’ve picked a winner!