Irish Farmers' Association

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Irish Farmers' Association
Native nameFeirmeoirí Aontaithe na hÉireann
Key peopleJoe Healy, President
Damian McDonald, Director General
Bryan Barry, Assistant Director General
Liam MacHale, European Director
Kevin Kinsella, Livestock Director
Catherine Lascurettes, Dairy Executive.
Office locationIrish Farm Centre, Bluebell, Dublin
CountryRepublic of Ireland

The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) (Irish: Feirmeoirí Aontaithe na hÉireann) is a national organisation to represent the interests of all sectors of farming in the Republic of Ireland. The IFA is Ireland’s largest farming representative organisation. IFA has protected and defended the interests of Irish farmers in all sectors for more than 60 years.

The IFA represents Irish farmers at home and in Europe, lobbying and campaigning for improved conditions and incomes for farm families. It also provide representation, support and advice to members on an individual basis.

IFA is a democratic association, organised in branches, County Executive and National Committees. Through our democratic structure, each member can have their say.[1]

The IFA's head office is at the Irish Farm Centre, in Bluebell, Dublin. It also maintains 12 regional offices and an office in Brussels.


At a mass meeting of 2,000 farmers in the Four Provinces Ballroom, Harcourt Street, Dublin, on the 6th January 1955, Juan Greene made the formal proposal to establish the National Farmers’ Association. The first elections to the National Executive were held in May of that year.

Seeking the right to negotiate on behalf of farmers rather than merely be consulted, 1966 saw the launch of the NFA Farmers’ Rights Campaign. Members set out from as far away as Bantry, Co Cork to march on Dublin to demand to be heard, culminating in a sit-in for 21 days on the steps of Government Buildings. Against continued government resistance, a road and bridge blockade and rates strike saw dozens of NFA members jailed for several months. Only significant movement on the right to negotiate on key legislation, and the establishment of marketing and advisory boards with farmer representatives, brought the campaign to a victorious end.

‘IFA’ came into existence in 1971 and moved its Dublin headquarters from Earlsfort Terrace to the newly built Irish Farm Centre a year later. The Association supported Ireland’s entry into the European Economic Community and was a prominent campaigner in favour of the successful 1972 Common Market Referendum, which saw Ireland join the EEC the following year. IFA’s rationale for joining was to give farmers direct access to the higher prices available in The Common Market and the supports under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

During the 1970s and ‘80s many new challenges faced farmers including devaluations of the ‘Green Pound’, milk quotas, Intervention, Disadvantaged Areas. At home, the 2% sales levy was fiercely resisted. IFA members finally won success through the courts for the abolition of the Poor Law Valuation system, bringing an end to a rates campaign stretching back to the establishment of the NFA.

The 1980s and 1990s saw the entry of IFA into the first of a series of social partnership agreements with government, employers and trade unions – a role which put IFA at the centre of national decision making on agricultural policy. Bad weather conditions in the mid-80s put farmers under intense pressure. In 1989, Ireland’s Commissioner Ray McSharry and IFA entered what was to be the first of many campaigns relating to CAP reform, which was linked with pressure on the EU to remove supports and open trade to third countries through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The Association made GATT and WTO (The World Trade Organisation) national issues and those who dealt with the reforms became well known because of IFA opposition to changes proposed by Messrs Sutherland, Santer, Fischler, Mandelson, and Ciolos.[2]

IFA is also responsible for the establishment of Farmer Business Developments (FBD) in the late 1960s which led to Ireland’s most successful domestic insurance company, it was also instrumental in the foundation of Cork Marts-IMP and the Irish Farm Accounts Co-operative.

From an early stage, IFA also established close alliances and working relationships with other farm organisations, as well as bilateral links with the NFU in England and Wales and the UFU in Northern Ireland. The organisation developed a strong affinity with organisations in France, Germany and elsewhere using its membership of international federations including COPA at EU level and The World Farmers Organisation. The Association keeps in close contact to influence policy at the European Parliament, EU Commission and EU Council through its Brussels office.

IFA Structure[edit]

IFA is a democratic association, organised into branches, county executives and national committees.[3]

IFA Constitution and Rules[edit]

The IFA Constitution and Rules set out how the organisation is structured and how it operates.

IFA Branches[edit]

Each IFA member is a member of an IFA branch. Each IFA branch elects up to four delegates to represent the branch on the relevant County Executive.

County Executives[edit]

The Association’s 29 County Executives play a central role in the organisation, providing a link between national level and branch members on the ground in each county.

The job of the County Executive is to canvass the views of members and branches on policy and other issues, and to represent those views within the Association, through the various National Committees and at National Council. County representatives at the national level are also responsible for reporting back to their counties on IFA activities, national policy decisions and other developments.

County Chairmen[edit]

Each County Executive elects a Chairman. The Chairman is the key IFA leader and chief spokesperson in their county. The Chairman also represents the county on IFA’s governing body, the National Council. The County Chairman is supported by the other elected County officers.

National Committees & Project Teams[edit]

Each County Executive elects representatives to IFA’s National Committees. The role of National Committees is to identify important issues within their sector or area of responsibility, analysing and interpreting issues, and formulating policy and strategy to deal with the challenges facing farmers. Each National Committee elects a Chairman who represents the Committee at National Council.

In addition to National Committees, IFA has Project Teams tasked with advancing specific issues affecting farmers in areas such as flooding, inputs, SACs, etc. The IFA President and National Officers , in consultation with the National Council and National Committees, appoint the members of the Project Teams and their Chairmen are fully accountable to the Council.

National Council[edit]

The National Council is the national governing body of the IFA, bringing together the County Chairmen, National Committee Chairmen and National Officers under the leadership of the President who chairs its meetings. The Council has a hands-on involvement in devising IFA strategy and providing the engine for policy and delivery.

National Council is composed of: the President 6 other National Officers 29 County Chairmen plus 2 additional representatives from Kerry and Galway (the only counties with more than twice the average county membership) 16 National Committee Chairmen plus 1 additional Livestock representative Macra na Feirme President and the IFA Director General. The Editor of the Irish Farmers Journal and the President of ICOS are non-voting observer members.

National Officers[edit]

Four Regional Chairmen are elected by County Executives in their region. The regions are Munster, South-Leinster, Ulster/North-Leinster and Connacht. The Regional Chairmen sit on National Council and, together with the President, Deputy President and National Treasurer/Returning Officer, are the National Officers of the Association. They are responsible for communicating with County Executives between Council meetings and coordinating campaigns at regional level.

IFA President[edit]

The IFA President and Deputy President are elected through a national vote at branch level, in which all IFA members are entitled to vote. Voting in IFA’s national elections is by proportional representation.

Director General[edit]

The Director General is the Chief Executive Officer of the Association. He works in tandem with the President in leading the Association and directing resources to achieve IFA’s objectives, and he is accountable to the Council. The Director General is responsible for all matters relating to staff, in consultation with the IFA President and Deputy President.

Salary controversy[edit]

In November 2015 Eddie Downey (President) and Pat Smith (General Secretary) resigned following controversy over salaries. Mr Smith's salary in 2013 had been €535,000. He resigned on 18 November. A week later members of the organisation's national executive council were informed that Mr Smith had been given a €2m severance payment and €2.7m pension. Eddie Downey admitted he had signed off this agreement, and resigned. Downey was earning €147,000 a year plus €50,000 in add-ons when he resigned.[4]

The IFA confirmed that former IFA chief economist Con Lucey — who had attempted to raise concerns over financial issues and transparency before quitting under duress in 2014 — would oversee a review of salaries and expenses.

List of Presidents[edit]

Name Year Origin
Juan Greene 1955–1962 County Kildare
Rickard Deasy 1962–1967 County Tipperary
T. J. Maher 1967–1976 County Tipperary
Paddy Lane 1976–1980 County Clare
Donal Cashman 1980–1984 County Cork
Joe Rea 1984–1988 County Tipperary
Tom Clinton 1988–1990 County Meath
Alan Gillis 1990–1994 County Kildare
John Donnelly 1994–1998 County Galway
Tom Parlon 1998–2002 County Offaly
John Dillon 2002–2006 County Limerick
Padraig Walshe[5] 2006–2010 County Laois
John Bryan[6] 2010–2014 County Kilkenny
Eddie Downey 2014–2015 County Meath
Joe Healy 2016–present County Galway


  1. ^ "About Us". Irish Farmers' Association. 2013-09-04. Retrieved 2018-04-04.
  2. ^ "History". Irish Farmers' Association. 2014-03-11. Retrieved 2018-04-04.
  3. ^ "Structure". Irish Farmers' Association. 2013-09-05. Retrieved 2018-04-04.
  4. ^ Ó Cionnaith, Fiachra (26 November 2015). "Eddie Downey resigns as IFA face multi-million euro legal pay battle". Today's Stories. Cork. Irish Examiner. Retrieved 26 November 2015.
  5. ^ "Walshe elected as IFA president". RTÉ News. 20 December 2005. Retrieved 21 December 2009.
  6. ^ "Bryan elected IFA president". RTÉ News. 21 December 2009. Retrieved 21 December 2009.

External links[edit]