Farmers ‘furious’ over €535,000 pay for IFA chief

The salaries of all executives in farm organisations, and all bodies that receive some form of government funding by direct subvention or levies, should be made public, Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has demanded.

Following the shock revelation that Pat Smith, former general secretary of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), was paid a total salary package of €445,000 in 2014 and €535,000 in 2013, Mr Fitzmaurice said the farming community “is furious and wants answers”.

“It’s coming to the stage now where we need to take any organisation or body that is getting government money or raising funds through membership to be out, open and transparent about remuneration,” he said.

“We saw it with former Rehab chief executive Angela Kerins and now we’re seeing it with Pat Smith. It’s actually grotesque to see that Barack Obama, the President of the United States and Taoiseach Enda Kenny weren’t earning as much as him,” said the Roscommon-South Leitrim TD.

The farmer, turf-cutter and agricultural contractor is calling for a complete disclosure of earnings for all chairpersons, secretaries, treasurers and others who receive more than €50,000 from an organisation funded by the taxpayer – or by other state-collected levies.

Mr Fitzmaurice said the controversy over Pat Smith’s salary and resignation had infuriated farming communities nationwide.

“There are lots of questions to be asked, particularly over the year 2013, when Ireland had the worst fodder crisis ever and farmers were going through torture. What was the reason Mr Smith got €60,000 of a bonus?” he asked.

Last Thursday, Mr Smith stepped down from his position as general secretary of the IFA following disquiet over his remuneration.

The Irish Farmers Journal reported that the IFA President Eddie Downey told a meeting of the organisation’s executive council that Mr Smith was paid a total salary package of €445,000 in 2014.

This comprised a basic salary of €295,000, as well as a €150,000 pension contribution.

Mr Downey said the executive council had a full debate on the future of the IFA and what needs to change.

Referring to Mr Smith’s pay, Mr Downey said: “This was not sustainable and was unacceptable. Going forward, the remuneration package of the IFA general secretary will be disclosed and will be a matter of public record in the annual accounts.”

In a statement before his resignation, Mr Smith said the IFA was bigger than any one person and he had decided to put the best interests of the organisation to the fore.

“It has been a great honour and privilege to work with the IFA for the past 25 years,” he said. “I want to wish the IFA and the voluntary officers well and I would like to thank the dedicated staff for their loyalty and commitment.”

During his tenure, Mr Smith was hailed as the IFA’s most able negotiator and business brain.