The late emergence of self-proclaimed outsider candidate Daniel Long prevented the second successive unopposed coronation of a Macra president.
John Keane was set to be elected unopposed, just as Thomas Duffy was two years ago. In 2019, at least there were robust contests for the three regional chairs, with nine candidates in all. This time only four people stood, and only Munster is being contested.
The count is being completed as I write, and Daniel Long is not present. He cited COVID-19 as a reason not to attend, but he also voiced reservations about the independent scrutineer and called for that person to be agreed upon by both presidential candidates.
Macra needs to stay relevant, and the next 12 months are crucial.
Macra has a number of strings to its bow – competitions, community, youth and agricultural activism, personal development and social interaction. All these things have been taken from young people during the pandemic. There may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get people involved in the organisation once some form of normality returns.
Would it be worth engaging with secondary schools? The average age of the Leaving Cert student has risen by about 18 months in a generation, and transition year offers a perfect opportunity for stockjudging, teaching tractor skills, or agri-environmental projects, perhaps linked to the Young Scientist competition.
The Certified Irish Angus School Competition has been a huge success, with urban schools engaging and a high proportion of girls participating. I understand the Young Farmers’ Clubs in Ulster engage with second-level students with some success.
Thomas Duffy effectively had the second year of his presidency taken from him, but he had positioned Macra as a little more focused on the relationship between farming and the environment, something a young farmers’ organisation should have a leading role in.
Whoever succeeds him will have their hands full in what could be a make-or-break two years for Macra.