Live: IFA election debate from Meath
Tonight was probably the liveliest meeting of the campaign and I suspect the candidates actually enjoyed it. Meath has to be commended for the numbers that turned up tonight, the tough questions, attentive audience and superb chairing by Diarmuid Lally.
And people that’s a wrap….thanks for joining in and all the text message throughout the night…
Tom Clinton takes the floor and give a great speech! Says Eddie Downey was a bit unlucky and asks the room and all members to do one job and that is support the new President
The room has three past presidents of the IFA, Tom Clinton, John Donnelly and Eddie Downey are all present tonight
Diarmuid is a mind reader…he’s wrapping it up!!
I think the meeting is almost over, audience is tired, chatting away among themselves…time for Diarmuid to wrap it up….!!!
Joe says that no matter what organisation we need to get our message out there.
Inspections have to be streamlined and have to be far more farmer friendly and the biggest bone of contention has been the bord bia inspections and there is room for a dedicated section within the organisation for these inspections.
We have to ensure that Macra does not lose out on levies and greater ownership is necessary of the origanisation and the branch needs to meet more often and the co executive is sharp and concise.
But above all we need to highlight the achievements we’ve got for young farmers or there won’t be young farmers. I’m disappointed when I see students come out of ag colleges who have not milked a cow!
Flor says the organisation needs to move on its PR and we need to take advantage of modern PR. This is a unique opportunity now, you have to look and see what you can improve.
We have issues on income and we need an overall plan for the organisation on incomes.
We need to get younger members of families involved and on labour on farms, we have issues with labour due to the income on farms.
Henry says the organisation needs to spend money on PR, but the truth of it is that the consumer and we are consumers ourselves, and if we got two pallets of fertiliser for one we’d take it. It would take fairly smart PR to convince consumers that its not all about cheap food.
young famers – a lot of us came through Macra and we have fought hard for young farmers.
Income, for young farmers, we won’t have them without income and on farmers getting bigger and its’ harder to get help – income and the pressure is linked to farm safety
Eamon Cassels wants to know about plans for young farmers
Denis Fagan says as a dairy farmer one of the biggest problems is that the farm size has to get bigger to make a living and its leading to danger. You need proper trained help…
Ned Ward from Navan says espionage training is needed to deal with a certain cabal in Bluebell
But his main gripe is the PR of IFA, the perception is that we gouge tax payers money as the consumer does not know about all our good work. We need change and we need to be able to make the living we deserve from our hard work
There are still eight or 10 people with questions!!! Holy moly….
Flor says that the three main beef processors have to be challenged.
Full review of the quality assurance is needed and it must be more farmer friendly. And we need a more farmer friendly genomics scheme.
On transparency what worked 20 years ago does not work today, we need to know where that money is going. There will be full transparency and the money will be used to help farmers incomes, not fund people’s wages.
Splinter groups – we need to work hard to bring them back in.
Henry says clearer accounts should be available and will you be able to see everyone’s earnings in IFA, or need to see them….that would be the hope, above a certain level.
You need a benchmarking process of how its’ arrive at.
He points to the US system of beef price reporting that the EU does not have.
Producer Organisations won’t solve all the problems, we do need is proper funding going into those organisations. the Department has to put some oil in there and you can’t ignore a good live export trade.
Joe says that he agrees that its farmers and members money and anything we are paying towards we are entitled to know where that money is spent. But there is legal action threatened, so you have to make sure the organsaiotn is not exposed to legal action. We have to work around the legals.
I never claimed to be a big farmer, I am a dairy and cattle farmer, milking 80-85 cows…
The Northern Ireland market needs to be sorted and I want the forum to deliver more for farmers.
its not acceptabel that the Dept points to an IT problem when it comes to payments, like the single farm payment
Charlie Traynor wants to know about Michael Berkery wanting to take legal action and members of staff re revealing salaries. I want anyone on more than €50,000 be named in the IFA financial reports. I am totally dissatisfied with the organisation. I’d like to know what the secretary of the grain committee is earning and there is a major problem in grain…
The Single Farm Payment…getting paid is impossible….getting through to the Department is a disgrace how difficult it is.
We want a bigger slice of the pie for beef, is there a plan for beef?
Will a full set of accounts be published to every member?
Jer Bergin, treasure, chairman and returning officer…is coming in for some flak…teh best thing anyone could be would shaft him, Seamus from the floor suggests, to the largest round of applause of the night (so far)
Henry says it’s about openness and transparency and communication with members and the general public.
Time is a huge issue for people and we need to be able to communication that we do make a difference for our members. We have to get results on the concentration of power with supermarkets.
On remuneration, IFA is not a business.
Splinter groups, IFA was formed from 67 splinter groups and they came together to ensure a coherent voice and its a challenging time and people have left as there is a general dissatisfaction with the living income from farming and we have to hope that some might see sense and come back
Joe says that to win back the respect, the retailers and processors have no respect for farmers.
Also it seems one of the front row members has no respect for Joe…making faces at him since he started answering the question!
We have to ensure there is a margin there for farmers, he’s quoting the pig guys – some losing €5,000 a week – and says some supermarkets refer to Ireland as Treasure Island due to their margin.
To get respect back the farmers have to feel reconnected with the organisation.
A rolling contract that is renewed every three or four year for the Gen Sec.
Flor says that his policies are about IFA getting back working for members. A level of credibility has been lost and people require transparency. The wage issue has to be dealt with through outside advice.
On the Con Lucey report, there is more to be done in that region. We need more transparency and I wasn’t interviewed by Con (the microphone is dying here…)
Re splinter groups we can’t get them back in until the organisation is working again…
Splinter groups…including the grain growers….what plans are there to bring them back or forget about them…
Diarmuid Lally says he was not interviewed…Henry says he was interviewed, Flor and Joe = no
I would question how exclusively the Con Lucey report is exclusively Con Lucey’s work…
Was Diarmuid Lally interviewed by Con for the report…suspect Diarmuid wasn’t expecting that!
What are you going to do to win back the respect for the farmer -so the housewife and processor respects him?
And how can you get 50,000 farmers into Dublin for a protest tomorrow?
CEO remuneration should be target based….if he hits his targets he should get bonuses
There’s a list of 20 names with questions!!! People of Meath, it’s 22.43…have you no homes to go to!!!
Joe says that the Con Lucey report should go back further but an independent should do it so it stands up with members and staff. It will be national council who decide on it…and that seems split down the middle on this.
On staff and salaries, there seemed to be an acceptance around the benchmarking to the Gen Sec of the Department of Agriculture. I think that movement of staff in the organisation is good, to freshen things up.
Flor says the Con Lucey report needs to be looked at in depth and the issues need to be dealt with immediately, but the meetings are saying people want an IFA that works on behalf of farmer and that requires tansparency.
We need our memebership up as high as possible and that helps us when we’re lobbying. The smaller members are probably contributing more to the organisation as they are contributing their lobby power.
We need a job description for the future and we need changes or we won’t; have an organisation with reviews after a few years and set targets.
Henry says that the full support of National Council is necessary to go back before 2009. But there is no reason why we can’t do that.
On the expenditure that if incomes goes down we have to cut our expenditure. Will it mean a loss of services to members? We have to be careful it doesn’t happen.
Promotion and employment – the organisation grew from small beginnings and there are a lot of staff there through the years but its not a huge staff. we are seeing new people coming into the organisation.
Con Lucey report has to go back further…saying you hope to do this is not good enough (that’s a questions btw)….and….the expenditure has to be looked at..where are the costs going to be taken out?
Staff costs should be based on ability and performance. And should there be people in the one role for a lifetime? It means there is no promotion…
Henry says the levy is proportionate and was put there when the organisation was almost broke. Now the origination was brought around to where the organisation was financially successful. Maybe it can be cheaper, but can it be done without the €4.7m…no, you can’t have the same level of service. It has to be farmers money that funds it.
Flor says if the levy is done away with it has to be done away with across all sectors. whatever we come up with won’t; be simple, but we can work with a fitter, leaner organisation. We’re maybe having our recession now that others had a few years ago. The levy was always going to fall, and funding is an issue the new president has to look at
Joe says the cost of running the organisation is €10.5m and the income is €12m…but the factory levy is causing the most issue and that’s returning €1.2m to the organsation. I’d love to say we don’t go there anymore. There has to be alternative ways…but he’s not sure what the best way to collect it is….we probably have to wait until the end of the year before we see what level of levies has been stopped
Questions is re proposals around collecting money…and he wants facts and figures around financing it…
This question, I’m not sure I or the candidates understand it…but there you go….
If you’re a shareholder you can put down a resolution to change the auditors, did any of them ever do so…or do so in relation to the IFA.
Henry – no
Those resolutions were put down in this co executive, and they were far more radical than the Con Lucey report and were put before Eddie and discussed them with him. He was president and he was courteous and wanted change and was on for it. In June 2014 he put the entity’s accounts up on the internet.
Henry – the process has begun over transparency.
There will be resolutions going from this county….
Flor….says he welcomes change within the organisation and proposals
Another question, that for all the work Eddie Downey did he was undermined by a small group of individuals and was treated abominably by the organisation. His legacy will be far better than those sleeveenes that tried to out him..ok not really a question but a popular statement
Joe says he didn’t think it was necessary that Eddie had to step aside and did not think it was good for the organisation
We would be better if Eddie was there today and the organisation was running smoothly, Henry says, but we are where we are
Henry says that Flor is accurate, no one on Council called for Eddie’s resignation. For the betterment of the organisation Eddie said he stepped down. Whether it was the right or wrong thing only time will tell but i understand it was his decision and for the good of the organisation
Flor says Eddie was not removed but stepped aside himself. There was public opinion issues there but no one was removed by council.
Michael O’Flaherty wants to know if the removal of Eddie was fair….
Henry says he was asked a specific question in Roscommon and said we had a different approach to the meeting. I have said that I hope the truth comes out in the organisation so the unfortunate situation Eddie and his family are in that it can be made right and a proper apology can happen
Henry is being accused of pointing the finger at Eddie in other debates
J*sus, Donal is full of questions….
Flor says there has to be full transparency in the future, on money, full disclosure and no drip feed.
I am on record with apologising to Eddie Downey an apology.
If the Farmers Journal does not become more pro IFA it will have to be looked at (the seat on Council). This will have to be taken into considering with the new president
Henry says that going back, no one has anything to fear from the truth coming out, transparency has to be there, and that’s his ambition for that to happen in the organisation. None of the candidats have anything to rear.
Re the Farmers Journal on board, the IFA has two seats on the Agricultural Trust and there is a special relationship there. That’s where it has come from…there are so many outlets on agri-media and there is nothing to fear from open reporting.
Joe says that the previous President and Gen Sec and pay…he was not a Council member, but says its split whether to bring everythign out in the open or move forward. He thinks that everything that has to come out do it sooner rather than later.
Farmers Journal has always say it and it’s in in the interests of reporting. Its a decision for national council…if they continue or others can sit in
The rot started with Padraic Walsh and Michael Berkery according to Donal and he wants to know what each candidate will do to disclose what people will do to disclose what has happened in the past…does Laois mafia continue?
He also wants to know re the Farmers Journal sitting in on the IFA executive…IFA doesn’t sit in on Farmers Journal…
Right, Donal has the floor again…he says he’s here tonight because Eddie needs an apology from IFA.
So, we’re back to questions….
Flor shows how he delivered for Eddie Downey….
Flor McCarthy is the final speaker tonight and the Kerryman thanked Meath for backing him to run
Henry is up now, room is giving him respect to speak
Joe has delivered a good speech, good response on the clap-o-monitor to it
Front row from Meath tonight…
The objector to Henry Burns talking tonight…but he was appeased and has allowed the speakers to go ahead
Joe Healy acknowledges the work of Eddie Downey, lots of applause to this, before he starts his official speech
Donal (?) says Eddie deserves an apology…Diarmuid asks him to refrain and say they should be entitled to speak if they are good enough to put themselves forward….
OMG and objection to Henry before any one gets to talk
5 min sos beag now as we get more chairs!!
Well that flew….we’re on the wrap ups now…
Nigel says he united farmers when they were running away from the organisation and they joined up because they saw delivery from him
Richard says his role on the board of Teagasc is to represent farmers and to find out what is required…and to stand on the farmer side all the time.
Pat says Teagasc only publishes the very best dairy farmers but forgets about the other 90% in the country. As regards to knowledge transfer, his bill for this will double and this shoudl not have been allowed take place. If he’s on the board he’ll revisiting that
John (?) from Kells wants to know about Teagasc and how to get it running properly for farmers
Nope, Nigel Renaghan is not getting away with his answer on pylons…if he gives the impression here that there are people looking for the pylons on their land…
John Cullen says that when he gives his money or sweat to IFA it was not to wash the dirty linen in public but to solve problems…
Tom, didn’t catch the second name, says he’s disppointed about attitudes when difficult things happen in the organisation…that they didn’t want to go back and ask why this problem arose. you should stand up..you’re on the committee and take them on. This has disgraced our organisation and it takes a long time to rebuild it…
Pat says the Lucey report has done a lot but the grassroots members need to know how their money is being spent
Richard says he was told on previous occasions that the President was ‘paid’ a farm manager
Richard says that on national council for 4 years, but when the revelations came out it was about accountability and transparceny in the organisation and there shoudl have been more of it
Nigel says the issues didn’t happen overnight but over a period of time. Its wrong to blame any one man.
People are still pouring in….the room is at capacity!
Martin Hickey wants to know about governance that let down the association, what lessons have been learnt
He wants to know if Henry Burns or Pat Farrell was telling lies about why the beef protest was called off as he heard different stories from both
Peter Farrelly wants a mic…he says the beef blocked sparked off Pat Farrells lack of confidence…Henry Burns told Farrelly the boat called of the beef protest.
Pat says he knew nothing about the Gen Sec pay when he put down the motion of no confidence in Pat Smith.
Was the motion of no confidence (Jan 2015) in the general secretary about his pay or about his delivery for farmers…asking Pat this…
I think I got the name wrong of the last question asker….
This is a determined crowd tonight
David Farrell says it wouldn’t take have as long to act on the Con Lucey letters as it will take to repair the organisation…lots of applause to this!
Challenge to answers..Nigel says he absolutely does support national council and never has not supported it.
Pat says he only supported one motion of no confidence in 2015…did not support a second motion of no confidence. The second motion was in the general secretary…and his vote of no confidence was based on the beef protest and the con lucey letters that were never acted on…after that he supported national council.
Nigel is only on national council two years and says his first meeting went well but someone gave him advice afterwards and his leaflet is about advice he’s been given…IFA national council is the governing body and has never stopped anyone only encouraged
Pat say he has always honoured decisions taken by national council – when the general secretary resigned, we supported our president coming out of that meeting, the president stepped aside on the monday and then resigned. as a member of national council I fully supported our president
Richard has not been a member of national council since 2010 and when he was there as national dairy chairman, was accepted by the council and he has always supported the democratic decision of council
David Farrell says tom pardon and John Dillon had undivided support and loyallty of national council and says it was lacking the last regime…he wants to know if the current candiates have served their president well in the past…and if they will honour any democratic decision taken at national council
Former presidential candidates Cyril says supported the farmers previously on pylons but the IFA signature is written all over the code…he’s got papers from 1985 and wants to know what the IFA is at…no signature form the previous president…and lots of local signatures….
Richard says any local issue an IFA branch brings up should be supported, its what affects the branch members and we should support them
Pat says eirgrid was found wanting over the wrong height in the past and he says it has to go underground it should go underground
Nigel says he has 45 acres of land owned and 45 rented and 12 acres of that has a pylon in it and his brother wants to build a house on it….we don’t have the volume of land to build elsewhere, but we also have neighbours looking for the pylon to be in their field so they can get the income out of it
So, what is IFA’s position on pylons and eirgrid?
The question is for Nigel on pylons…well the question is certainly longer than 2min….
Front row man – Cyril D’arcy – Navan IFA is first up with a question
40 mins of questions Diarmuid Lally says and warns them if you can’t answer a question in 2mins they should not be running for the position!!! Harsh….but I like it!
So, now it’s question time….
Richard says if he’d won the 2009 national president race things would have been different in IFA
Last, but not least, of the deputy president candidates is Richard Kennedy from Limerick
And now the room is almost at capacity here in Meath…allergic or not to seats, there’s very few left!
Pat Farrell, a Kildare man, is about a top-down approach in the future IFA
Nice one Nigel, thanks for keeping it short!
Quite a few people allergic to seats in Meath…lots now standing, despite their being lots of seats…
Monaghan man Nigel Renaghan is first up tonight, with a focus on incomes
Former IFA President Eddie Downey has also been spotted here tonight, as proceedings are about to kick off
MEP Sean Kelly is here tonight, in the hotel at least, not sure if he’s here to lend support to his fellow countyman Flor McCarthy
Tonight’s room in the Newgrange Hotel is all set and Chairman Diarmuid Lally was spotted in situ…on his phone
Tonight’s IFA election debate from Meath is the second last night out for the candidates with the debates due to finish on Monday night in Offaly.
Meath Chairman Diarmuid Lally said tonight’s debates will start with the deputy candidates at 20.00, before the presidential candidates take to the floor.