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Doctors' chief €500k deal more than Cameron and Obama combined

THE doctor's union chief at the centre of a major pension controversy was paid more than British prime minister David Cameron and US president Barack Obama combined.

Former Irish Medical Organisation chief George McNiece (51) was on a salary of nearly €500,000 when he retired in October.

The salary was due to jump between €550,000 and €560,000 this year -- pushing up his defined benefit pension entitlement to around €25m.

President Obama is paid €303,000 a year, Germany's Angela Merkel earns €250,000, while French president Francois Hollande gets €179,000, British prime minister David Cameron is paid €172,000, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has a salary of just just €75,000 while Russian president Vladimir Putin earns €93,000 a year.

Enraged doctors were left stunned as the huge sums paid to Mr McNeice were discussed at a special meeting organised by the IMO over the weekend.

More than 100 doctors have resigned their membership as a result. Now it appears likely that Health Minister James Reilly will be quizzed by external auditors on what role he played in awarding Mr McNeice a potential €25m pay and pensions package.

The IMO said Dr Reilly was one of a number of doctors who were on the organisation's remuneration committee when the contract with the former chief executive was signed in 2003.

A special meeting of IMO members in Mullingar on Saturday heard that the contract was agreed with Mr McNeice by a former president and the then chairman of the remuneration committee, Dr Cormac Macnamara, who has since died.

The organisation identified the members of the remuneration committee as Dr Macnamrara, Dr Reilly and two other doctors. A spokesman told journalists after the meeting there was a dispute as to their knowledge of the contract and the level of involvement they had with the committee.

It is understood that at the closed meeting on Saturday, some of those identified as having been on the remuneration committee disputed they had ever been actively engaged with it.







Contract

Some doctors indicated they had been asked to serve but that it had never met, they did not believe they had contributed to it in any way and had been unaware of the terms of the chief executive's contract.

It also emerged over the weekend that Mr McNeice was receiving a separate payment of €60,000 a year from the financial services agency set up by the IMO for doctors.

Although the final settlement was negotiated down to nearly €10m, he walked away with a lump sum payment of €1.5m, a pension fund of €4.5m and payments to be made each year for 16 years to the value of €3.6m.

IMO president Dr Paul McKeown confirmed that an external team of auditors was to be asked to investigate how the deal, which only became known to senior doctors on the union's management committee last year, was arrived at.

Dr Macnamara, the chairman of the remuneration committee in 2003, in a letter at the time, claimed it was sanctioned by the other members, who included Dr Reilly and two other doctors.

Dr McKeown confirmed Dr Reilly had been contacted by union officials about his level of knowledge but he did not divulge the minister's reply.

Asked if that would include Dr Reilly, he said: "I hope so, yes." A spokesman for Dr Reilly said that the minister would give any assistance he could to the IMO on the matter.

Mr McNeice has declined to comment.

hnews@herald.ie