The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) National Council has today (Monday, October 24) voted in favor of banning Kerry IFA Dairy chair Michael O’Dowd from holding an officer role in the association for four years.
During a meeting of the council this afternoon, it was confirmed that the Castlemaine farmer will have the option of appealing this decision after a period of two years.
The ban also means that O’Dowd’s six-year term as Kerry IFA Dairy chair, which was due to finish in December, will come to a premature end.
O’Dowd is among several members of the Kerry county executive who were contacted following a formal complaint being made to IFA headquarters in July.
The association has confirmed today that the complaint was lodged by Kerry IFA chair Kenny Jones.
The complaint related mainly to messages posted in the Kerry IFA messaging groups, and to messages sent directly to Jones.
The IFA employed consultant Gerard Dollard to carry out an independent investigation into the complaint and prepare a report for the association’s National Rules, Privileges and Procedures Committee.
After considering the allegations, Dollard’s report and representations made by O’Dowd, the committee recommended that the farmer be “ineligible for, and prohibited from standing for, any voluntary officer position with the IFA for a period of four years”.
A copy of the Dollard report was sent to all members of the IFA National Council in advance of the meeting.
O’Dowd, who has always maintained that he has done nothing wrong, attended the meeting today at IFA headquarters to outline his case.
Following this, the council voted to approve the sanction proposed by the National Rules, Privileges and Procedures Committee.
Speaking with Agriland following the outcome of the vote, O’Dowd was remaining steadfast.
“The real fight starts now, because I am not accepting it. I have nine county officers behind me,” he said.
In a statement this evening, the IFA national returning officer Martin Stapleton, who also chairs the national rules committee, said that the process had been “thorough, robust and fair”.
“This was a matter that had to be independently investigated in full.
“When an officer or member comes forward to raise claims of such a serious nature, it requires a thorough process which is fair to the person or persons complained about as well as the complainant.
“The county chairman showed great courage in coming forward with his complaint. No one should have to endure the messages that were sent to him.”
Stapleton said that the association has a duty of care to voluntary officers who give of their time to represent fellow farmers.
“IFA has always allowed diverse views to be aired through our structures, but it has to be done is a manner that is respectful of everybody involved in the association.
“Anybody who puts themselves forward for a role in IFA deserves to be treated with respect. We have rules and a code of conduct that have to be upheld,” he said.
“We are in an era where people can communicate with each other instantaneously. It is a very effective communication tool when used in the correct manner. However, maybe all of us need to think twice before we press the button.”
The formal complaint also included the former Kerry IFA vice-chair John Joe Fitzgerald who resigned from his position and left the farming organization in August.
The west Kerry farmer took the decision on medical advice citing the impact that stress had taken on his health.
Last week, Fitzgerald was selected to chair the new west Kerry branch of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA).