When Liam Doran was a young nurse staying in the nurses’ home at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Co Louth, the nuns hung a sign on his door saying “Man in the House”.
To this day, he remains blessed among women — so said Martina Harkin-Kelly, president of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) in a tribute to their outgoing general secretary who steps down later this year.
Attending his 35th and last annual delegate conference in Co Wexford yesterday, Mr Doran was treated to a series of video clips down through the years, from a young, dark-haired and passionate trade union leader to an older, greyer, but no less passionate advocate for the rights of nurses and midwives.
Deputy general secretary Dave Hughes led the tributes, highlighting Mr Doran’s achievement in doubling the size of union membership from 20,000 when he took charge of what was then the Irish Nurses Organisation to 40,000 today.
Calling Mr Doan a “master of timing, planning, brinkmanship, and delivery” with a “razor-sharp” sense of style. Ms Harkin-Kelly said he had an “innate ability to read the political landscape”.
Mr Doran, who joined the union in 1983 as a student officer and became general secretary in 1998, said that his proudest moment as a member was “when we actually stopped something from happening” — referring to the INMO decision to walk out of the Croke Park talks, whereupon other unions followed suit and the threat of cuts to non-core pay allowances was withdrawn.
His worst moment was when he told nurses they would have to take a pay cut and work longer hours in the wake of the financial crisis.
He also recalled the time when, for once ruffled, he effectively told the country to “shut up” as he was harried on his way into talks in 1999 during a nine-day nurses’ strike.
“By the time I got into the building, the headlines were ‘Doran tells the country to shut up’,” he said. Mr Doran also spoke about the two women in his life that he was “blessed to have” — his wife of 36 years, Patricia, and his colleague, Michaela Ruane.
“The INMO has been my life,” he added, to cheers, tears and a standing ovation.
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