The IFA is debating some rule changes around the length of time people can serve at national level.
An individual can only serve a maximum of 12 years on national committees, down from 18 under these proposals. In addition, a person can serve up to 12 years on national council as either a county chair or a national committee chair.
After that, the only way is up – a person who has exhausted these options must seek national office, either as a regional chair, treasurer/returning officer, deputy president or president.
While the organisation has recently moved from upward-only convergence for CAP, it is sticking to an upward-only movement rule that is causing friction in internally.
Why? Anyone serving on the eight-strong board of IFA cannot subsequently seek a position at a lower level. This particularly discombobulates Nigel Reneghan. The Ulster/North Leinster regional chair has previously served as chair of the poultry committee, but as he comes to the end of his four years in his current position, he is precluded from seeking the Monaghan county chair – ever.
He has made his feelings known in typically forthright style. I’ve even heard that he is being told by some supporters that if he can only look upwards, he should consider doing so during the upcoming mid-term elections.
Normally, the awarding of a second two-year term for the senior officers is a formality. A tilt at the president, to whom he has been close, would seem unlikely, but could Renaghan challenge either Brian Rushe or treasurer Martin Stapleton?
The danger in all this is that the central thrust of the rules – renewal – is lost.
There is a generation of young women and men who flooded agricultural colleges, green cert courses and university agriculture courses. Some were attracted by the possibilities offered by dairy expansion, and others returned to farming following the economic downturn, and have committed to a career.
Their voices need to be heard within the IFA and representing farming.
Some argue that a wealth of knowledge will be lost by these restrictions. Others hold that as things are, it’s hard to fill positions on committees.
It’s a tricky balancing act, but the rule proposals have followed the IFA’s diversity report published in 2019, and include mandatory inclusion levels of women in officer positions, and offer places to Macra nominees on all national committees.
With all that is going on in farming, from CAP reform to climate change bills, this needs a quick resolution. It’s no time for the IFA to be consumed by an internal row. There are battles to be fought externally.