Nitrates, the suckler cow cull scheme and the IFA postal vote generated the most heated discussion at the Cavan-Monaghan IFA hustings last Thursday night.

Deputy presidential candidates Pat Murphy and Alice Doyle were first up to set out their stalls with very little between them in terms of debating capacity and both set to run a strong race.

With presidential candidates coming to the end of their official hustings around the country, both were comfortable with the mic and answered questions from the floor succinctly and efficiently.

Meanwhile, in his opening speech, presidential candidate Francie Gorman said the IFA needed to communicate messages better, engage in issues earlier and keep farm incomes as number one priority for IFA members.

Martin Stapleton said respect for farmers, unity and farm incomes were most important in his view, including achieving a fair market price for farmers.

Questions were raised as to why IFA didn’t consult its membership before making a decision on the suckler cow cull scheme.

Cavan IFA’s Joe Brady expressed his frustration at the way it was handled and said that the IFA acted as a mudguard for the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue in parking the cull scheme on the basis that it wasn’t wanted by the IFA.

There was also some frustration around how the IFA had fought the nitrates issues, with views from the floor that the IFA hadn’t started to work on time on the current changes.

The responses from the two candidates were one of the few times they diverged on an issue on the night.

Stapleton’s policy was to seek change through negotiation and stay in the room, if possible, while Gorman took the view that there comes a time when you have to stick a flag in the ground and be prepared to walk out if you’re not getting what you want.

Bert Stewart from Monaghan IFA expressed his concern that the postal voting option could seriously weaken the branch structure of the IFA and do long-term damage to the association. Both candidates said they opposed the changes in their current format.

The candidate’s answers led to a few sparks flying on the postal voting changes and how they came about.

The meeting heard that on the day the discussion took place in IFA headquarters, a delegation from the northwest, including Monaghan representatives on the IFA national council, had to leave early to meet the Minister for Agriculture.

The view from the floor was that the decision shouldn’t have been taken without everybody present.