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Thursday 18 September 2014

Doctors raging at union chief's €9.6m pay-off

TERENCE COSGRAVE

Published 13/01/2013 | 05:00

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THERE was fury among doctors at an extraordinary general meeting of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) in Mullingar.

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The meeting, which drew 170 of the country's doctors, was called to discuss the aftermath of the departure of chief executive George McNeice, who left the organisation last month with one of the biggest pay-offs ever seen in this country for a union executive.

The package, which was negotiated in 2003, includes a pension fund of €4.5m, a termination payment of €1.5m and an additional payment of €225,000 a year to be made each year for 16 years to a total value of €3.6m.

Mr McNeice got a starting salary of €250,000, which grew to €500,000 in 2012.

After speakers had made their feelings known about the package, which they were told is legally binding, the president of the IMO, Dr Paul McKeown, said he and officers of the IMO shared those feelings of shock and anger.

But Dr McKeown told members that the settlement was provided for in the organisation 2012 accounts and the IMO was financially sound.

"We have constructed this settlement in such a way that the only draw on our cash reserves before 2016 is the termination payment we have had to pay to the CEO of approximately €1.5m." he said.

Mr McNeice had originally claimed contractual entitlements to a package valued at €25m.

The contract was signed on behalf of the IMO by the former president and chairman of the remuneration committee, Dr Cormack Macnamara (now deceased).

The meeting heard that advice had been sought from two Senior Counsel, Lyndon McCann and Peter Ward, on whether it could challenge the terms of the pension package.

Mr McCann had advised that Mr McNeice had a legal entitlement to enforce the contract and that the best course of action was to negotiate the €9.6m settlement with the former CEO.

He described the final agreement as "a good deal ... if an unpalatable deal."

Mr Ward agreed with him.

Mr McKeown told the meeting, which was attended by 170 of the doctors organisation's 5,000 members, that the IMO would now commission a full independent audit to examine its finances, contracts and compliance with regulation and good practice.

Sunday Independent

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