There is no doubt about it but the grassroots members of IFA wanted change and they got it.
Joe Healy, the relatively unknown candidate of the three, swept the boards at today’s count to elect a new President of the IFA. While the talk leading up to the count had Healy and Burns neck and neck, it soon became apparent that Healy had the numbers.
When counting started at 9.30am this morning, the buzz around the room was that Healy had polled well right across the country and not just where he was expected to poll well.
The dairy farmer from Galway has been part of the IFA Farm Business Committee and is a former President of Macra na Feirme, but he didn’t have the IFA background that Burns and McCarthy had built up over the years of involvement at senior level.
And this lack of ‘experience’ has served him well. At debates across the country, both Burns and McCarthy had played their ‘experience in IFA’ card. But it would seem that IFA members across the country saw ‘experience in IFA’ as more akin to being part of what has gone before and not in a good way!
Now, Healy faces a bigger battle. He must bring about the changes he has promised from inside to keep those who voted him in happy. The poor turnout reflects a poor situation IFA finds itself in its members’ minds and the vote to back Healy says they want change.
To do this, Healy must ensure that the senior staff and Executive Council of IFA are working with him and not against him.
That won’t be an easy feat, as he’s not au fait with the inner workings of the Executive Council and the internal politics that he must master.
Coupled with that there have been a lot of calls from IFA members for the next President to ensure full transparency around staff salaries. That won’t be easily done.
In the background, a possible High Court case with the former General Secretary Pat Smith rumbles, while the Con Lucey report recommendations must be implemented.
And, as farm incomes remain on the ground with dairy farmers in the midst of an income crisis and beef farming facing ruin if international trade deals go ahead, Healy will be expected by many to turn their fortunes around.
Only time will tell how successful the 15th President of the IFA will be, but he faces serious challenges in the coming weeks and months.