The County Chair of the IFA says he has “no regrets”, and instead will look back fondly on his term leading the organisation locally ahead of the AGM to elect his replacement at The Lavey Inn, on Monday next, February 12.
“I've enjoyed my time as chair, no doubt about that. But I must say, and maybe I shouldn't, I'm quite looking forward to handing the job over to someone else. After four-years, I feel I've done all I can, and I've done the best I can,” says James Spears, one of five central roles for which nominations are being sought.
Others posts for which nominations are sought include vice-chair, currently held by Sean Higgins, assistant secretary (Richard Moeran), treasurer (Elizabeth Tilson), and PRO (Robert Watson).
The meeting will be addressed by special guest speakers Tim Cullinan, IFA national treasurer, and Nigel Renaghan, Ulster North Leinster IFA regional chairman.
“I've done a lot, I've been involved with and had input on a great many things,” Mr Spears tells The Anglo-Celt. “I've met a lot of people, and made some very good friends along the way. I've got a lot from my time as chair,”
Among the highlights, he picks out his involvement in helping the IFA mark it's 60th Anniversary. An accompanying book was produced, however it's release came at a time when the IFA nationally was left reeling following revelations about the economic entitlements of former General Secretary Pat Smith.
Mr Smith accrued signifiant payments between 2013-15, and upon exiting received a significant package; reports at the time focused on the discord felt at grassroot level, with many farmers nationally facing great financial strife.
“It was a hot period, a very tough time. But thankfully we've been able to move on past that, and hopefully for the better,” remarked Mr Spears.
Asked if he had any regrets from his time as figurehead, Mr Spears says “no”, adding: “If there's anything I'd have liked to have seen more done on over the four-years its possibly getting more commitment on dealing with flooding. The cleaning up of drains and small rivers I'd have liked to have seen more breakthrough on,” he adds, lamenting the bureaucratic red-tape centred around the five statutory bodies which retain a remit for waterway management.
On the alleged conflict of interest issue raised by the county at national level, Mr Spears feels it has somewhat “fallen by the wayside” after the Rules and Privileges Committee were unable to a “definitive answer” on the matter.
Mr Spears however reasoned: “Where do you draw the line? If you start stopping people from being anything other than a farmer and taking on roles on the IFA and wherever else, you're going to be left then with a very small pool to people to pick from.”
With at least two names understood already in the hat for the role of chair going forward, Mr Spears had this advice to his prospective successors: “It's a busy position. I hope who ever takes it on is prepared for it, I'll say that much. You can take on the job and end up neglecting other parts of your life, like on the farm. I know I have a lot to catch up on. But I've no regrets, it has been a good four-years and I'm happy to be leaving on those terms.”