IMO Director of Communications makes claim for €75,000 in sick pay
GEORGE McNeice, the retired chief executive of a key doctors' union, was back among his former colleagues yesterday when he gave evidence at a €75,000 sick pay hearing.
The former Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) boss, Mr McNeice (53) has kept a low profile since his €10m early retirement package nearly two years ago led to turmoil among rank-and-file members.
He was a witness yesterday at the Rights Commissioner hearing involving a claim by its director of communications, Maria Murphy.
Journalists were turned away from witnessing the proceedings after being informed by Labour Relations Commission (LRC) staff that it was in private, even though it later emerged it was a public session. An LRC spokeswoman was unable to explain the mix-up last night.
A decision on the claim is due in a number of weeks. Ms Murphy was a close associate of Mr McNeice and originally worked as his personal assistant before being appointed to handle the union's public relations during his tenure. She has been on sick leave since the spring of last year and is claiming around €75,000 sick pay.
Ms Murphy claims she was paid 14 days' sick pay but was entitled to six months on full pay with another six months on half pay because of her senior position in the union.
The union, which was represented at the hearing, by its Operations Manager, Susan Clyne, disputes the claim. It had been believed the case would be held in public but reporters were informed that the proceedings before Rights Commissioner John Tierney would be entirely in private.
It is understood the IMO argued that Ms Murphy's claim was lodged a week beyond the statutory time limits. She worked for the union for over 20 years.
All parties, who were accompanied by a team of lawyers, declined to comment as they left the hearing. Mr McNeice previously indicated he was giving factual evidence and was not taking any side. Following the hearing, the two sides left separately.
Mr McNeice's post has not been advertised since his departure and the running of the organisation has been carried out on an acting basis by Niall Saul. Mr Saul, who is executive chairman of the company Symbio HR Solutions, was involved in the reform of FAS after its expenses and spending controversy.
As chairman of its audit committee, he oversaw that the implementation of recommendations to overhaul the organisation.
The 5,000 members of the IMO are to ballot shortly on whether an independent review will be commissioned to examine the running of the union going back for more than a decade.
The IMO, whose president, Dr Trevor Duffy, met with Health Minister Leo Varadkar yesterday, is now facing into months of intense talks with the Department of Health on funding for free GP visits to all children under six and the over-70s from beginning of the year.