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From (far) left to right

17 Nov 2016

Having witnessed the implosion of the BMA, Dr Ruairi Hanley has some straightforward advice for the IMO regarding industrial action, while he revels in the rude awakening of the ‘liberal elite’

Regular readers will be aware that I have been commenting on the BMA Junior Doctor dispute in the UK for some months now. In September, a planned series of all-out strikes was abandoned following a backlash from members.

According to press reports at the time, the British union had become dominated by militant left wingers who alienated many of their colleagues with their robust tactics.

Unfortunately, these hardliners were unimpressed with the strike climb down and the word ‘betrayal’ began to trend on social media. The latest development occurred on November 5, as the leader of the BMA Junior Doctor Committee Ellen McCourt announced her resignation, stating her position had become “untenable”. She had been in the post for only four months, having succeeded the unfortunate Dr Johann Malawana, who himself resigned following the rejection of a deal brokered with the government.

The Daily Telegraph reports Dr McCourt will now be succeeded by Dr Pete Campbell, who is allegedly a supporter of Momentum — the far left group that has successfully taken over the British Labour party, thus ensuring the Tories will probably be in power for the next decade at least.

All of this is deeply depressing stuff. It seems the BMA is now a seriously divided organisation, a fact that can only have negative consequences for young doctors throughout the UK.

Meanwhile, here in Ireland, I note the IMO is apparently talking about industrial action over a living-out allowance abolished in 2012.

Although I am not familiar with the current leadership of the union, I doubt it has undergone a BMA-style socialist takeover in the years since I was Vice Chairman of the NCHD Committee. Therefore I suspect we are unlikely to see a similar fiasco on this side of the Irish Sea.

Personally speaking, I would prefer to see the IMO place more focus on the unwinding of the FEMPI cuts to general practice, which proportionately had a far greater impact on medical practitioners and our health service than any deprivations suffered by hospital doctors.

Nonetheless, even assuming that industrial action is on the cards, how far is it likely to go? After all, in my career to date I think I have witnessed at least three or four planned NCHD strikes, none of which seemed to last very long.

The sequence of events is typically as follows. In the beginning, the union makes some dire threats, then ballots for industrial action take place. This is followed by the last-minute cancellation of strike action as parties go into talks at the LRC, with Ingrid Miley outside reporting for RTÉ. There follows an agreement, another ballot of members and then silence for two to three years. We then go back to threatening industrial action when agreements are not honoured or a new grievance is discovered. This tedious and never-ending cycle of industrial relations has long since ceased to impress me.

However, I have a feeling things may not play out quite as smoothly in future. The problem is that in our current internet age the nosiest people on Twitter are often mistakenly assumed to be representative of their peers. Inevitably, they all believe themselves to be more radical than their predecessors and thus expect more dramatic results from their union.

I am not sure how these characters will react when the revolution inevitably fails to come, and their working circumstances are not radically altered following talks at the LRC. Their outrage will only be magnified by a factor of 10 when the silent majority quietly go back to work.

I therefore will conclude with some friendly advice for the IMO leadership. As the BMA discovered, it is far easier to march the troops up the hill than to bring them down again. Threats must be proportionate, realistic and actually enjoy the backing of an overwhelming majority of doctors rather than a vocal minority.

If you want to be the new union tough guys, be sure your members are actually willing to follow through.

This game may yet have new rules.

President-Elect Trump
As I write, Donald Trump has just been elected the 45th President of the United States and the entire Irish media appears to be having a collective nervous breakdown. I admit I am struggling to keep a straight face. Although I think Trump is a thoroughly unpleasant individual and would not have voted for him myself, unlike many commentators I can see why he won.

Around the globe millions of ordinary working people are sick of being told how to think, vote and act by an arrogant liberal elite.

They have had enough of the stifling political correctness that prevents any discussion on issues such as immigration and terrorism.

Hillary Clinton and her celebrity friends were the epitome of this new dogmatic consensus. They and their gang of media cheerleaders assumed the plebs would invariably fall into line. Unfortunately for Hillary, in the end, the little people refused to be told what to do by this elite.

As for myself, well I am off to collect the winnings from the small bet I had on Donald Trump to win with Paddy Power at 7/2. Flushed with this success, I was considering making a donation to The Irish Times, so that they could organise a counselling service for their staff now struggling to come to terms with the US election result.

On second thoughts, I think I’ll keep the money.

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