Meath IFA backs Downey and blames Laois ‘mafia’ for his downfall

The former President of IFA Eddie Downey was ‘thrown under a bus’ and deserves and apology, according to those at the Meath IFA presidential debate in Navan on Wednesday night.

A number of the people on the floor called for the three presidential candidates and the IFA as an organisation to apologise to Downey.

Rumours in advance of the IFA Meath debate from Meath suggested that it would be a lively affair, being in the home county of the former President, who was there along with his wife at the debate.

However, while many had predicted that Henry Burns would be taking a lot of flak at the debate from the Downey supporters, deputy candidate Pat Farrell was asked repeatedly to account for his backing of the motion of no confidence in the former General Secretary Pat Smith in January 2015.

But, when the presidential candidates took to the floor there was a strong vocal objection from IFA member Donal Glennon, who told the room that people did not want to hear Henry Burns speak.

However, Chairman Diarmiud Lally appeased the protest and asked that those who had put themselves forward should be given the respect to speak.

Joe Healy, who was first to speak, made mention of the former IFA President Eddie Downey’s role in IFA, which was warmly appreciated by the room.

Burns didn’t mention Downey in his speech, but said he was open and honest in all his dealings and life, while Flor said he recognised the work of Eddie Downey during his speech.

The candidates were strongly questioned on whether Downey had been undermined and effectively thrown under the bus last November.

However, Downey’s role in the financial affairs of IFA, including his remuneration of €188,970, or the role he had in signing and exit package of €2m for the former General Secretary Pat Smith was not mentioned. Nor was there any mention of his knowledge of the former General Secretary’s pay, a man he backed when motions of no confidence were brought against Smith.

Instead, it was put to the candidates that a Laois mafia has undermined Downey and that he had not been supported by National Council when he needed its full backing.

Henry Burns said that himself and Downey had worked closely over the years and did have differences but were able to put those aside and move on and work together afterwards. He also answered allegations of finger pointing in Roscommon recently.

Burns said he appreciated that Eddie went to his father’s funeral at Christmas and said he was personally sorry that people have had to go through the pain they have had to go through.

Joe Healy said he thought Eddie did not have to step aside and appreciated the pain he had to go through. He also said that Downey stepping aside was not good for the organisation, a sentiment Burns agreed with.

“We would be better if Eddie was there today and the organisation was running smoothly,” Henry said, “but we are where we are”.

Michael O’Flaherty wants to know if the removal of Eddie was fair, but Flor reminded the crowd that Downey was not removed from IFA, but stepped aside, a point Burns agreed with.

“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.”