THE country's main doctors' union is embroiled in a fresh row over the pension package of nearly €10m paid to its former chief executive.
The Irish Independent has learned that the behind-the-scenes row erupted in the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) over a bid by rank-and-file medics to find out more about the package given to George McNeice (51), who was on a salary of nearly €500,000.
A private meeting, attended by members of the IMO in Croke Park on Saturday, saw accusations of shameful behaviour by the union's council.
Tensions erupted after it was announced that motions put forward in a signed petition by 120 members, calling for an emergency general meeting to discuss the remuneration package of Mr McNeice, would not be accepted.
These motions were aimed at securing the minutes of various committees of the union over many years as well as giving ordinary members more of a hands-on role in overseeing an external inquiry that is to take place into the financial management of the union.
However, the shocked gathering was told while the EGM will be held at the end of next month, the motions which will be discussed will be drawn up by the union's council and will not be those of ordinary members.
Dublin GP Dr Cathal O Suillobhain said yesterday that it was clear that the IMO leadership was failing to honour its promise of more transparency and the change of motions was an attempt to stop people from "looking at the books". He added: "If the council's motions are accepted then the old IMO remains firmly in control of any investigation of the affairs of the organisation over the last 12 years."
He revealed: "This move by the council was described as cynical by one speaker from the floor and shameful by another."
The members were told the original motions could not go ahead at this stage for legal reasons.
Dr O Suillobhain said: "Some other members who spoke seemed resigned to defeat and said they now felt it would be a waste of time and money to have the old regime investigate themselves. I do not believe we should accept this."
IMO president Dr Paul McKeown admitted yesterday that bonuses for Mr McNeice, which saw his salary jump from €250,000 to nearly €500,000, were rubber stamped by the union's remuneration committee "in the dark", without knowing the figures involved.
He admitted there was insufficient oversight, and added: "It was a wrong way of doing things."
A spokesman for the IMO said the council had called an EGM for March 23 and had put forward a set of motions, including approval of the terms of reference for a "comprehensive, independent review of all matters connected with the employment contract, payment and pension arrangements of the former chief".