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Sunday 18 February 2018

IMO won't fund €10,000 health cover for ex-chief

Doctors will review payoff, but €9.7m deal stands

George McNeice
George McNeice

Terence Cosgrave

After negotiating a €9.7m private pension package, the former head of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) George McNeice is still claiming that the organisation should pay his €10,000 health insurance – and return a painting that he says belongs to him – an emergency general meeting of doctors was told yesterday.

These claims were rejected by the organisation, according to its president, Dr Paul McKeown.

The EGM confirmed that it will now carry out an independent and retrospective review of Mr McNeice's term as chief executive of the IMO. The review will look at all circumstances surrounding his pay and pension entitlements, as well as the ancillary companies in which he was involved.

The 'Save Our IMO' group – led by Dr Cathal O Suilleabhain – said that the latest claims by Mr McNeice were a distraction and the key issue was whether or not there was going to be a full investigation into what had gone on in the union – in particular with the remuneration committee that awarded the salary and pension to Mr McNeice.

He said he accepted now that this was not going to happen and said he was disappointed by the turnout at yesterday's EGM.

"This was possibly the most important meeting of the IMO in a decade and we had less than 150 people at it," he said. The IMO has over 5,000 members, he added.

But he confirmed that he had no plans to start a breakaway organisation.

"This was always about saving our organisation and holding it accountable," he said.

The union will now face a difficult AGM in just a few weeks time, where it will have to withstand criticism from a larger body of doctors.

But it will, at least, have in place a structure to investigate how its former CEO came into such largesse, seemingly without anyone else in the union being aware of it. Whether that will be enough to weather a large-scale defection from the organisation is another matter. The president of the IMO, Dr McKeown, has already admitted that 77 members have left since Mr McNeice's pension settlement – which was originally €20m – became public.

The full extent of the goldplated retirement package shows Mr McNeice will receive staggered settlement payments of between €200,000 and €250,000 a year.

The €9.7m package for the 52-year-old retiree includes a €4.5m pension pot. Based on a typical interest rate, the €4.5m would pay for a pension of around €140,000 a year.

The IMO's annual accounts, published in February, showed Mr McNeice will receive €200,000 a year from 2016 to 2021, but this will rise to €250,000 from 2021 to 2032. The present value of the payments is €2.6m. He also got a termination payment of nearly €1.5m last month.

Despite the settlement, the IMO continues to have reserves (members' funds) of more than €3.2m.

Irish Independent

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