77 doctors quit IMO since ex-chief’s pay package revealed

Controversy over George McNeice’s pay ‘shocking and convulsing’, says organisation president

Dr Paul McKeown, IMO president, arriving at the organisation’s conference in 2012.

Dr Paul McKeown, IMO president, arriving at the organisation’s conference in 2012.

Thu, Mar 21, 2013, 06:00


The controversy surrounding the remuneration for the former chief executive of the Irish Medical Organisation, George McNeice, has been “shocking and convulsing”, the president of the doctors’ trade union, Paul McKeown, has said.

Dr McKeown said 77 doctors had left the trade union since the beginning of the year, shortly after details of Mr McNeice’s retirement package emerged. However, he said while there was a huge hunger to find out what had happened in relation to Mr McNeice and to ensure it did not happen again, there did not appear to be a mass exodus.

The IMO membership now stands at 4,976.

Reaction to the revelations that Mr McNeice had a potential entitlement to nearly €25 million on his departure, continues to buffet the IMO. Next weekend the union will hold an extraordinary general meeting, stemming directly from this controversy.

Mr McNeice ultimately received, following talks, a package worth more than €9 million, although it is understood there are still some peripheral issues outstanding between the parties.

Even the forthcoming meeting has not been without controversy, as the IMO leadership said there were legal problems regarding the motions proposed by doctors who sought the meeting.

In an interview with The Irish Times , Dr McKeown said about half the GPs who had left the organisation had cited the McNeice issue. However, he said the other half had pointed to irritation about progress in industrial relations.

Dr McKeown said the contract the IMO had agreed with Mr McNeice in 2003 was “wrong”. He said it was “dangerously generous” and that the potential entitlement of up to €25 million could not be borne by the organisation, either financially or morally. He said the IMO did not have a system that allowed for sufficient oversight.

Dr McKeown said that given that the IMO had been hit by internal rows in the past, it would have been expected to be more careful. “Hands up, we weren’t. That is why absolutely this time it has to be right.”

Dr McKeown acknowledged that attempts by members in the past to uncover details of issues such as the remuneration of the chief executive had not proved successful.

“Quite some time ago, whenever I asked, I was told it was about the same as a hospital consultant and a little bit. Now hands up, I should have asked more searching questions.”