Handshake: Donal O'Brien and Shay Galvin pictured following last month's AGM Picture: Dave Gaynor
A PALLASKENRY farmer who claims that a ‘smear campaign’ against him hampered his chances to become IFA county chairman has received a public apology from the organisation.
Addressing the association’s Limerick meeting, Donal O’Brien said that despite running “a very clean campaign”, he had been informed of a smear campaign against him, which he says did him detrimental damage.
In an effort to set the record straight, Mr O’Brien stood in front of around 50 members of the IFA at Adare’s Woodlands House Hotel, and spoke of the “deep hurt” which the untrue allegations have caused him and his family.
“I’m deeply hurt over this campaign, and my wife and family are very hurt over it. It’s a sad day when this happens in the IFA,” said Mr O’Brien at the meeting.
Deputy president of the IFA Richard Kennedy and new county chairman Shay Galvin apologised to Mr O’Brien on behalf of the organisation.
Speaking on behalf of the Limerick County Executive, Mr Galvin apologised “for these slanderous comments and the smear campaign that was done against you”. There was no suggestion that Mr Galvin, who was elected chair last month, had anything to do with the smear campaign.
The new chairman stressed that he had no involvement in the rumours, while Mr O’Brien made it clear that there was no ill will between the two men.
Mr O’Brien said that he couldn’t understand “how people could stoop so low to destroy a fellow member’s character.
“I will never know - and for what, to keep me out of the County Executive, when my only motive was to help my fellow farmers,” Mr O’Brien told the meeting.
According to Mr O’Brien, “distasteful” rumours circulated in the 48 hours before the election surrounding both his personal and professional life.
He alleged that stories about ‘ill-health’, which sought to prove that he would not be in a condition to serve as county chairman were circulated, as well as rumours about his personal life and his rumoured involvement in “shady deals”.
A story which claimed that Mr O’Brien had been arrested and jailed was also mentioned at the meeting.
“I was never arrested or jailed in my life,” he pointed out.
“These stories are totally untrue.
“I purchased all of my land through auctioneers either by private or public auction and all taxes and funds for the land were declared to revenue.
“There are other allegations out there. They are so distasteful that I won’t even mention them here tonight, but all I can say is I have received garda vetting and clearance through the various voluntary organisations I am associated with, which I would not have received if there was even a grain of truth in this. I am also certified in child protection,” he added.
Mr O’Brien went on to say that despite his and his father’s strong association with the IFA, none of his children have any desire to seek membership in the organisation.
“Some of you might say, this is only sour grapes - this is not true. I have lost all trust in the IFA and I do not feel wanted or appreciated by the organisation. The campaign finished up being about keeping me out rather than electing a county chairman.”
A number of fellow farmers described the rumours against Mr O’Brien as ‘disgusting’, ‘disgraceful’, and ‘shameful’, with many vocalising their support for the Pallaskenry man.
“It was an issue that went out of control and was appalling from a personal point of view,” said one IFA member.
Another said: “There are not enough [Donal] O’Briens in our organisation, he is one of the only ones who puts his head on the block for his fellow farmer.”