As exclusively revealed by the Irish Farmers Journal on Wednesday morning, Damian McDonald, 44, is the new director general (DG) of the Irish Farmers Association. McDonald will take up the role in early 2017.
The announcement was made at a meeting of the IFA’s decision-making body, the executive council, which began in the Farm Centre at 11am.
McDonald has been a long-time favourite in the race to succeed Pat Smith who left the organisation almost a year to the day. In the immediate aftermath of Smith’s departure, McDonald was seen as an obvious and capable candidate.
The process to replace Smith began in earnest in July when business consultancy firm KPMG advertised for applications for the position.
Listen to a discussion of Damian McDonald's appointment in our podcast below:
A shortlist of five people was drawn up which included McDonald as well as Professor Gerry Boyle of Teagasc, James Brady from Rosderra Meats, an internal IFA candidate believed to be acting general secretary Bryan Barry and a fifth, unnamed candidate.
The final interview took place last Friday and the IFA announced to its executive council that the identity of the next IFA boss would be announced at Wednesday's executive council meeting.
Speaking after his appointment, Damian McDonald said: "Being from a farming background, I am very conscious of the responsibilities the position of Director General of the IFA brings with it. I am looking forward to working with the President, the Officers, the Executive Council, National Committees and IFA's staff team to progress the organisation and the issues affecting the farming community."
McDonald said he will continue in his role as Chief Executive of Horse Sport Ireland until he serves out a notice period. "My full focus will be on that role until I formally take up the position with the IFA in the New Year.”
The DG role is new to IFA. As part of his review of the IFA in the wake of the pay controversies in 2015, former IFA economist Con Lucey recommended the splitting of roles previously held by the general secretary.
In his report, Lucey said “a new post of Secretary should be created, which would have a high degree of independence from the chief executive (director general) in defined areas dealing with governance and transparency, and would also take over some of the responsibilities the current post of assistant general secretary.”
Lucey surmised that there are too many “administrative” functions with the general secretary and the new director general should be more focused on offering leadership to the association.