Government appoints barrister to chair new talks with hospital consultants

Minister orders shelving of proposed curbs on rights of consultants to advocate

The Government has appointed a senior barrister to chair a new round of talks with hospital consultants aimed at introducing the long-planned revised contract for medical specialists who will work exclusively in the public system.

The new talks to be chaired by senior counsel Marguerite Bolger are expected to commence in September.

Separately, it is understood that Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has instructed officials in the Department of Health to remove controversial proposals in a draft contract put forward several weeks ago which would have imposed restrictions on the right of consultants to advocate on behalf of their patients.

The Government has offered salaries initially ranging from €190,000 to €227,000 over a six-point scale for hospital consultants who take the new so-called Sláintecare contract.


Pay rates will subsequently rise to between €210,000 and about €252,000 when all cuts under financial emergency legislation imposed after the economic crash a decade ago are fully reversed in mid-2022.


Initial talks between health service management and representative bodies for hospital consultants on the introduction of the proposed new contract took place in early May. However, the medical organisations were deeply unhappy at what they maintained was the stance of the department that matters relating to the proposed new contract were “not for negotiation but for implementation with a provision for ‘feedback’”.

In a bulletin to members the Irish Medical Organisation said it had rejected this position and following extensive engagement over recent months it had "now secured substantive negotiations with an independent chair in line with the practice of previous negotiations".

However, it expected the new negotiations “to be particularly challenging”, given the overwhelmingly negative response from both consultants and non-consultant hospital doctors to the Government’s proposals.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent