Talking to other farmers and particularly our peers is a great way of allowing the stress of drought and farming challenges to be put in perspective as things to be managed rather than taking over our lives.

We had a great opportunity last Thursday evening to do just that. IFA members of a certain vintage headed into Páirc Uí Chaoimh for an IFA barbecue to honour IFA’s Cork regional executive, Sean Clarke who has recently retired from his position after 32 years. Sean was quick to emphasise that he hasn’t retired but merely finished his stint with IFA.

Thirty-two years

Sean spent 32 years working as development officer/regional manager for the IFA. Thirty of those years were spent in Cork. He arrived after a fractious period in the IFA in Cork when the county was split into the now familiar and functional three executives of Cork Central, West Cork and North Cork. Cork is a huge county and Cork farmers needed easier access to meetings and more representation at national level. When the three Corks were working together along with the Regional Manager, then Cork was a force to be reckoned with indeed.

The county has a huge diversity in soil and landscape resulting in many farming sectors needing to be represented. During my active years in the IFA, I remember one particular time when Cork Central alone had six members on National Council. At the function, there were so many men and women in the room that had served as National Officers. Just at our table, we had Liam Ryan who served as national pigs chair, Pat Lehane, national liquid milk chair, Betty Murphy, national farm family chair and my own Tim who held the office of deputy president. Donal Cashman, former IFA president, was also in the room.

Through the years there has been tremendous dedication, loyalty and leadership from members. To my peers, the IFA was one voice from farming to friendship. Now there are a lot of competing entities and it seems more difficult to have one voice.

During Tim’s time as county chair, we really got to know Sean for the hard-working and dedicated IFA man that he was. His work with individual farmers was always discrete while he solved problems and highlighted issues that were affecting farmers in their everyday lives. Sean could be a tough cookie too and seeing him in action at county meetings, getting exasperated with farmers and for farmers was a sight to behold. The hand flew to the side of his head and it was time to put up or shut up.

There was many a fine argument between Sean and Tim figuring out the best course of action for farmers but never to the detriment of friendship. Sean’s wife Mary was always by his side at formal functions and also known by the larger IFA family.

Everyone was in good spirits and delighted to be back in the same room chatting to friends and colleagues that shared so much together over the years

Sean acknowledged her support and that of his girls at the function. His daughter Louise was present along with members of Sean’s family from Co Monaghan. You could see that Sean was touched by them making the trip to celebrate with him. He was fulsome in his praise for all the officers and their teams across the three counties that he worked with for the betterment of IFA members. He also thanked Ann and Pauline, his office staff for keeping the show on the road.

The current IFA president, Tim Cullinan, was in attendance and paid tribute to Sean. Conor O’Leary, the current Cork Central chairman ran proceedings and complimented Sean for his service to IFA as did North Cork’s chair, Anne Baker.

There was much chat of challenges ahead yet everyone was in good spirits and delighted to be back in the same room chatting to friends and colleagues that shared so much together over the years. There were people missing and people that we didn’t get to meet but at least the channels of communication are now firmly open. We now have a chance to hear the back stories about peoples’ lives. I feel privileged when people tell me their tales of struggle and triumph.

Con Lucey

Sadly, the president, Tim Cullinan announced that Con Lucey, the IFA’s former chief economist had died RIP. Con gave great service to the IFA and was a gentleman of integrity. Con had the ability to make facts, figures and projections sound easy. He was always highly regarded by all who worked with him.

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