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Friday 13 December 2019

Union in push for probe after ex-CEO's €10m pay deal

Former IMO chief executive George McNeice
Former IMO chief executive George McNeice

Eilish O'Regan, Health Correspondent

AN independent financial investigation into how finances at the main doctors' union were managed over more than a decade has moved a step closer.

Doctors in the Irish Medical Organisation voted in favour of holding a ballot of members on whether the financial review will go ahead.

The decision was made at a secret meeting lasting several hours at the union's annual conference last night.

The wide-ranging review would include an examination of the stipends paid to former presidents of the union, including Health Minister James Reilly, who held office in 2005.

The union also voted in favour of new rules promising more transparency. But despite the pledge of greater openness, members of the media were excluded from the discussions and doctors were closeted behind closed doors.

An unprecedented proposal was also made earlier yesterday to hold today's address by Junior Health Minister Alex White to GPs in private. However, this decision was reversed following communication from the minister's office indicating their preference to have the proceedings in public.

The union, which met in secret session, agreed new rules aimed at greater transparency and giving members more control over how it is run.

They include more oversight of the financial administration of the organisation including the disclosure annually of the chief executive's salary.

Former President Dr Asam Ishtiaq said he disagreed with the secret meeting and added that the media should have been allowed to cover it.

It was announced last year that tenders were to be issued for an outside firm to do a retrospective financial review of the union in the wake of controversy over the pay and pensions package of nearly €10m given to its former chief executive George McNeice.

The review promised to be wide-ranging and look at financial arrangements and governance of the union between 1993 and 2012, the operation of subsidiary companies, the awarding of contracts, third-party salaries and expenses as well as appointments to external bodies. However, it was later decided that the review would be deferred because it would cost too much and it may not be possible to ever publish it.

The annual meeting is the first chance that members will have to challenge that decision.

Rank-and-file members had been unaware of the extent of Mr McNeice's salary and pension deal until negotiations on his retirement took place over a year ago.

Mr McNeice (53) will receive €200,000 a year from 2016 to 2021, rising to €250,000 from 2021 to 2032. He also received a termination payment of €1.5m.

Incoming President Dr Trevor Duffy said last night his stipend would be €35,000. It was €100,000 in 2012. He said members of the union want to know how the retirement package of nearly €10m was paid to Mr McNeice.

Irish Independent

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