Stronger together

Originally from Dublin, Ronan King trained as a Chartered Accountant, and joined the Board of the IDA as one of two independent non-executive directors in 2020.

What is your background, and how did you come to join the Board of the IDA?
I qualified as a Chartered Accountant with KPMG and set up my own practice in 1984 in Bray before merging with Simpson Xavier in 1987, where I spent 18 years, primarily in management consulting.
I took early retirement in 2005, and since then have pursued a portfolio career. I’ve been actively involved in recent years as an independent non-executive director, and have been heavily involved in Chambers of Commerce, serving as President of Bray Chamber from 1985-87 and of Dublin Chamber in 2007. I took part in an open competition process with the IDA in early 2020. Two appointees – myself (in a Communications and Advocacy role) and Geraldine Kelly (Governance and Risk) – took up our roles in September 2020. This is the first time in 100 years that there have been non-dental members of the Board.

What is your role on the IDA Board?
Dentists have suffered in the last number of years from what I would call official apathy towards them as a profession and what they contribute to healthcare. That’s evident from issues such as the fact that the Dental Act was passed in 1985 and hasn’t been upgraded, and from the cuts in the subsidies granted under Government-sponsored schemes. The IDA has recognised the need to move communications and advocacy centre stage and, in the face of this official apathy and inertia, to turn up the heat to achieve critical change. My role is to work with the Management Committee and Executive, and with external advisers, to ensure that these critical issues are addressed.

What skills do you feel you bring to the Board?
I’m not a dentist – I think differently! Dentists are highly credible, highly qualified, and highly intelligent individuals, but they have traditionally been narrowly focused on the purely dental dimension. What Geraldine and I try to bring is to broaden that, not because it is wrong, but because no organisation is an island, and we need to exist and participate in a wider business and political community. While I have a financial and business background, I also have experience in not-for-profit/with-purpose organisations and in developing policy positions. I think this has equipped me, among other things, to lock horns with civil servants on many diverse issues and to achieve change.

What is your impression of the IDA as an organisation?
The IDA is very professionally run by a committed and hardworking Executive, and a very active Management Committee, who are working hard on a number of critical issues. Yet, it can be a challenge to get dentists to come out and speak on these subjects. I am concerned by the relative inactivity and lack of engagement by many dentists, given the crises facing the profession. In financial terms, the case for membership is compelling, yet significant numbers of dentists on the Register are not members. We need to understand why and how they can be brought into the fold.
Dentists need to be more vocal. They need to be more active in the community. They are the leading professionals delivering oral healthcare, and yet we have an oral health policy that practitioners weren’t even involved in defining, which is a disgrace. The way that the Department of Health has chosen to treat the profession is wrong, and the profession has no choice but to push back.

How would you like to see the Association progress into the future?
I would like to see a marked improvement in the treatment of the profession by politicians and civil servants. The IDA should be a ‘must join’ for all dental professionals.
In 2023, the IDA is celebrating its centenary. I see that as a potential rallying post, that throughout 2023 we should be seeking to increase the voice and the profile of dentists, and increase the relevance of membership. Ní neart go cur le chéile – there is no strength without unity. We need to convince people that you are better off being inside the tent and making the changes, rather than criticising from outside.

Ronan is married to Edel, and they have four children and five grandchildren who he says are “a joy”. He’s a keen golfer, and enjoys all sports.