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IMO investigating flights taken on private planes by McNeice

THE Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) is investigating three flights taken by its former chief George McNeice and other senior figures on private planes in Australia and South Africa.

Sources said the union funded two or three flights by the former chief executive in the late 1990s and early 2000s to conferences, when there were no commercial flights available.

The IMO, which represents 5,000 doctors, confirmed it is investigating the flights as part of a broader probe into Mr McNeice's term as chief executive.

The review will examine his pay and pension entitlements as well as ancillary IMO companies he was involved in.

The union was unable to say how much the flights cost, but insisted members' funds were not used. It is understood that other union officials also availed of the domestic flights in South Africa and Australia.

But Mr McNeice said he never specifically requested that he travel on the flights. His spokesman said the IMO arranged them in advance and that he did not know what they cost, and they were effectively air taxis rather than private jets.

"They were used when members of the IMO were sent abroad on delegations," said the spokesman. "They usually went to more than one venue because it was too far to drive and there might have been complications with booking internal flights.

"To call them private jets is to put a colour on it. They were air taxis carrying five or six people."

Mr McNeice is in dispute with his former employer over a painting and a €10,000 health insurance bill, which he believed to be part of his departure agreement.

He has said he owns the painting, which was given to him by the late Waterford GP and former IMO president Dr Cormac McNamara.

Meanwhile, the terms of reference for an investigation into governance procedures around the issue of remuneration at the union will be advertised on Wednesday. The IMO agreed the weekend before last to put in a tender to select an independent company to carry out the probe, which is expected to take a number of months.

Mr McNeice's basic salary as IMO chief was €250,000, and his pension is worth nearly €10m. This is made up of a fund of €4.5m, a lump sum of €1.5m and delayed payments of €3.75m.

Irish Independent