The IFA AGM is “an event now firmly in the Taoiseach’s diary”. Who’s making that assertion, you might well ask? Only the Taoiseach, with Leo Varadkar marking his fourth appearance at said event by placing it among the must-attend events for the nation’s leader.

Varadkar seemed very at ease among a bunch of farmers, staying long after the meal had ended, chatting and making fun of his own previous comments on meat eating.

The day had started with new president Francie Gorman demanding “a bigger say in national and European policy”, throwing the gauntlet down to Government, who he said “farmers feel abandoned by”.

That said, the exchanges between Gorman, IFA’s national and county officers and the Department of Agriculture’s ministerial team that afternoon were extremely cordial.

McConalogue acknowledged the likelihood that this was his last AGM as agriculture minister. That wasn’t ceding Government after the next election to the opposition, but a recognition that only Joe Walsh has ever been retained as agriculture minister by a returning Government.

Pippa Hackett, meanwhile, seemed eager to find common ground, declaring that derogation participants farm to very high standards, and agreeing with pig chair Roy Gallie that the ban on organic fertiliser from pig farms being spread on organic farms was based on “sentiment, not science”.

FBD’s sponsorship of the AGM was also new, with Francie Gorman making reference to it in his opening speech, and FBD chair Liam Herlihy a presence all day, joined by FBD Holdings (the co-op) chair Pat Murphy and senior executive John Cahalan for the Taoiseach’s address.

There followed an hour that was more intimate. After the politicians and RTÉ cameras had departed, the 20-odd departing members of national council received presentations to mark their tenure from Francie Gorman.

The full range of emotions was exhibited over the course of an hour, from the bromance banter between Conor O’Leary and John Carroll, who are not so much departing as changing roles, to the gentle sincerity of the likes of John Nolan of Carlow and Jarlath Walsh of Mayo.

Nolan spoke of his pride in how IFA at ground level responded when there was a difficult situation on a farm, “the kind of thing that isn’t talked about afterwards”, while Walsh spoke of the importance of the branch structure, and pleaded for it to be tended to.

Brian Rushe and Tim Cullinan spoke very warmly, with Rushe paying tribute to the outgoing president’s remarkable stamina – a man who was never late for any engagement in what often was a packed schedule, never flustered, never tired.

Rushe’s fellow Kildare man, Thomas O’Connor, “I’m still the youngest on council”, playfully put his hat in the ring for a future presidential contest, but didn’t say which one. At 33, he has options. As does Rushe, only 10 years older.