Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA) suckler committee chair Gerard O’Brien has resigned following concerns over the association’s withdrawal from the Beef Market Taskforce.
O’Brien resigned a month before the end of his term as suckler committee chair, with the association set to hold elections for a series of positions on Friday 18 February 2022.
The Kilkenny farmer said he was “personally very disappointed” that his resignation is a “pity” and that the “ICSA is still a very good organisation”.
Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal, O’Brien, who had held the suckler committee chair role since February 2020, described the reasons behind his stepping down from the position.
He said: “The beef taskforce would have been a bone of contention.”
He alleged that the ICSA leadership never consulted with the association’s suckler committee before agreeing to the winding up of the taskforce last year.
“If the members of the suckler committee had their say, we wouldn’t have left the taskforce.”
He also criticised the move to pursue an all-island PGI status for Irish beef as a “missed opportunity” which should have focused more on a “niche product”.
“The PGI should have been a suckler one and it’s too broad as it is. I think it dilutes what PGI stands for.”
In a statement to the Irish Farmers Journal, an ICSA spokesperson said the association’s president Dermot Kelleher, together with ICSA’s management committee, offered to meet Gerard O’Brien on several occasions to discuss any concerns he had.
However, they said that O’Brien refused these meeting offers on each occasion.
The spokesperson said: “The Beef Taskforce was discussed in detail at four meetings of the ICSA beef committee and at four meetings of the ICSA national executive in the period February to July 2021 inclusive.
“Across both groups, there was a consensus that the transparency needed along the food chain would not be delivered through the Beef Taskforce.”
The ICSA has also succeeded in getting a commitment from Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue that a new beef forum will be set up in 2022, according to the spokesperson.
“Prior to the final meeting of the Beef Taskforce held on 21 July 2021, Ger O’Brien did not express any strong views either way and the suckler committee did not put forward any alternative course of action.
“The first time that Ger O’Brien indicated his view that the Beef Taskforce should be retained was at a national executive meeting on 27 July 2021. By this time, the Beef Taskforce had been officially closed by its chair Michael Dowling.”
Meanwhile, the ICSA will hold elections for a number of leadership positions on Friday 18 February 2022.
These include filling the position of the association’s vice-president for Leinster, a beef committee chair, suckler committee chair, national treasurer and honorary secretary.
Nominations for these positions are now open and prospective candidates have until 5pm on Monday 31 January to declare their intention to run.
Due to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, the elections will take place in person in Portlaoise.