Upfront AUGUST 2018 www.irishfarmersmonthly.com ICA in legal wrangle The Irish Countrywomen Association usually operates under the radar, apart from the odd encounter with reality TV as in the RTÉ series ICA Bootcamp. Recently, however, the organisation has been in the news for all of the wrong reasons. One of its members has taken exception to the electoral procedure for national o cers to be elected to the ICA’s National Executive. The controversy has reached the High Court and the instigator of the legal action, Patricia Madden – a barrister – claims the organisation breached its constitution by failing to count ballots cast by its membership in advance of its AGM last May. The ICA’s legal representatives say the organisation has put forward a set of proposals that would allow its members decide on the issues raised by Patricia Madden. She, in turn, responded by saying that the ICA should have declared the winners of the election at the AGM for positions on its national executive board, including national president. These elected o ce holders would normally serve a threeyear term running from 2018 to 2021. From reading the legal hearing reports it would appear that the ICA admits to some problems with the ballot papers which it wants to rectify and is willing to put proposals to that e ect to its members. These apparently include asking its members if they want the ballot papers from the election opened and counted. In the event that proposition is defeated, it appears the membership would then be asked if they want fresh elections to be held. Patricia Madden is opposed to this remedial action and wants the ballot papers cast last May to be opened and counted. With this impasse in place the case was due to return to the High Court before the end of July. It must be hoped that an outcome acceptable to everyone can be reached. The ICA, despite current tribulations, has a long and well deserved reputation of improving the social and cultural lives of many hundreds of thousands of Irish women. Movers and shakers in agriculture (From L to R) Paula BarryWalsh, Deputy Chief Veterinary O cer, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Aidan O'Driscoll, Secretary General, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D.; and Dr. Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive O cer, Food Safety Authority of Ireland. €500k competitive start fund for marine and agritech Last month Enterprise Ireland launched a €500,000 fund to help start-ups achieve their full potential. As many as 10 successful applicants will each receive up to €50,000 in equity investments. Successful companies in the marine and agritech sectors will gain the opportunity to accelerate their growth and help them reach international markets. In another innovative research support measure, a funding mechanism that will support 23 projects across a range of research projects has been announced by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Minister Creed says the €14million grant scheme will be dispersed among 12 Irish research organisations. The investment will provide direct employment for 71 contract research positions. Joe Healy, Divisional Manager for High Potential Start-ups, Enterprise Ireland with Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine, Michael Creed, T.D 4 If Aidan O'Driscoll thought that the role of Secretary General at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine was a complicated and occasionally stressful job, then he may change his mind when he gets stuck into his new position as Secretary General at the Department of Justice. In any case, Aidan will be a major loss to the agriculture industry. He has served the sector with distinction over many years. Before taking on the Secretary General position in January 2015, Aidan had held a number of senior positions at Agriculture House, including Chief Economist and Assistant Secretary General. While we wish him well in Justice, eyes will be focused on his replacement as we face into an array of formidable challenges, including the ongoing Brexit negotiations and CAP reform, along with the most immediate crisis caused by the ongoing drought which has exhausted farmers, already worn down by extreme weather conditions dating back to autumn 2017. Aidan O' Driscoll's legacy to agriculture is impressive. There is rarely criticism of the Departments' administration of a plethora of schemes and payments, a compliment to his management skills. He also ensured that the Minister acquired the extra funding needed by Bord Bia to develop new market opportunities. Most importantly, Aidan worked behind the scenes to ensure that a firm blueprint for the further development of the Irish agri-food sector, through Food Wise 2025, is in place.