The Kerry branch of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) has “practically unanimously” agreed a motion to ask the IFA national council to “reverse” the pay increases awarded to the association’s leadership last week, according to its chair Kenneth Jones.

A motion was proposed by the county’s sheep chair and chair of the Castlemaine branch Francis Foley and seconded by dairy farmer and Tralee man John Sullivan at the executive’s meeting on Thursday night.

IFA deputy president Brian Rushe was present at the meeting and was described to have come “under fire” during discussion on the matter by several farmers present.

The move follows the passing of a similar motion at a meeting of the north Cork IFA executive on Wednesday night, which saw IFA members in the region ask national council to “revisit” the salary increases.

On Wednesday last week, the IFA announced that its president Tim Cullinan’s salary would increase from €120,000 to €140,000 and that its director general Damien McDonald’s salary would increase by almost €31,000 to €215,998, following a review by the IFA’s remuneration committee.

Better return needed

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal on Friday, Kerry IFA chair Kenneth Jones said: “The anger is out there on this issue. Personally, I think it was a bad time. The top fellows are giving themselves a pay rise again.”

However, Jones warned that “any time we have a row like this, it doesn’t look good for our organisation”.

Also speaking on Friday, Kerry hill farmer Francis Foley said: “The salary for the director general is now on over €4,000 a week. There’s some of us who wouldn’t see the likes of that in a year.

“We’d want more of a return on that kind of money. They’re paid generously enough as it is. They have to lead by example and are totally out of touch with reality.

“This is the feeling on the ground and us officers are getting a hammering on this from members. My branch members think it is disgraceful. We feel like they’re letting us down and they need to do more.”

The Kerry sheep farmer described how he has “fear for the organisation on this” and warned that “national council should have a say”.

Increases reversed

Also at the meeting on Thursday night, the county’s national dairy representative Michael O’Dowd said “we want these salary increases reversed”.

He said that “considering the hardship farmers are under at the moment”, IFA leadership “giving themselves a big cushy pay rise” is “desperate”.

Former IFA presidential candidate and Kerry farmer Flor McCarthy said: “The only group who can decide this is national council, otherwise we’d be like Russia.

“The 29 county executives are becoming a non-event. There’s no power in the council anymore.”

He warned that the IFA president has become a president for the “pig farmer and dairy farmer” and asked “what about the rest of us”.

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