Officers of the Ennistymon branch of the Irish Farmers’ Association, in an unprecedented move in the county, have resigned their positions.
They took the decision to give up their roles in protest over the sale of the local mart to an international retailer and what they see as a lack of support from Clare IFA.
The branch committee members took the united action “to highlight our frustration with the IFA on their approach to the sale of Ennistymon Mart”.
Ennistymon Mart is run by Clare Marts Ltd, the farmer-owned co-operative, which also runs livestock marts in Ennis, Kilrush, Scariff and Kilfenora. It sold the mart site in Ennistymon to Aldi, subject to planning permission, provoking anger among the farming community in the mart’s catchment areas of Ennistymon, Kilshanny, Doolin, Liscannor, Miltown Malbay, Mullagh and Inagh.
The Ennistymon branch of the IFA met last Wednesday and the committee resigned their positions but urged people to retain their association membership.
“We feel that Clare Marts and the IFA, while they are separate entities, are completely interlinked in their history and the fact the board members of Clare Marts are active IFA members and two of them are past county chairmen of the IFA,” Pat O’Donoghue, former chairperson of the branch stated.
“I would advise people to retain their subscription because for the insurance cover it provides alone, it is worth it, but anyone who would like to can contact their milk processors, their marts and the factories they bring their cattle to, in writing requesting that IFA levies not be deducted from their sales,” he added.
Mr O’Donoghue said that after the officers stepped down, it was open to the floor for nominations. “We had no problem with anyone doing it but, like in most of these organisations, the problem is not getting up to the top table but getting away from it,” he outlined.
Mr O’Donoghue accused Clare IFA of “not wanting to get involved in any way” and said, “We are incredibly hurt by the lack of support coming from them.
“We voiced our concerns, as much as we could, to the IFA but we felt they basically didn’t want to know about it. We know we are not going to get help from the IFA so our next battle will be through planning,” he said.
Mr O’Donoghue said he believes there will be objections to a planning application for the site and expects that, if it receives permission, that this will be appealed to An Bord Pleanála.
Clare IFA chairman Andrew Dundas said he believed the countywide organisation was “not in a position to dictate to Clare Marts how to run their business”.
Speaking to The Clare Champion, Mr Dundas said, “Shareholders and the board had the decision-making on it. It was not the IFA as such.
“We are in an awkward position. We got caught in the middle. We were not in a position to tell Clare Marts how to do their business. No one would question the passion that is there in Ennistymon to hold onto their mart. It is a service, you know. The IFA was not in a position to tell Clare Marts to keep it open.
“I am involved in Sixmilebridge Co-Op Mart and I don’t think they would take kindly to an organisation telling them how to run their business either,” Mr Dundas said.
By Nicola Corless