Church loses fortune in bank share slump
Faith in BoI costs dioceses millions
CATHOLIC dioceses headed up by Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin are nursing multimillion-euro losses following the collapse of the Bank of Ireland share price, an Irish Independent investigation reveals.
They are among a number of dioceses -- and several leading political figures and charities -- that lost a fortune on their Bank of Ireland (BoI) shares.
At their highest value in February 2007, the shares traded at €18.70, but yesterday they were trading at their lowest point this year -- at just 43c.
According to the register of Bank of Ireland's shareholders, Cardinal Brady's Armagh archdiocese holds 409,000 shares that have plunged in value from more than €7.6m to €204,000.
Dr Martin's Dublin archdiocese, which also lost money on AIB shares, had a much larger investment in Bank of Ireland with almost 400,000 shares, worth over €10m three years ago but now valued at just €270,000.
A spokesperson for the archdiocese said the shares are held in trust for 199 parishes and that a large number of shares were bequeathed to these churches over the years.
The Masonic Trust Company, which represents the Freemasons and invests money on behalf of masonic lodges around Ireland, is nursing one of the biggest investment losses -- with its shares reduced from a high of €12.7m to just €338,000.
The trust holds one of the biggest individual shareholdings in the bank with almost 670,000 shares.
Other high-profile politicians and organisations badly affected include Fianna Fail backbenchers Ned O'Keeffe and Mary O'Rourke; Health Minister Mary Harney and her husband Brian Geoghegan; and Fine Gael frontbencher Richard Bruton.
The Diocese of Raphoe in Donegal, which also had shares in AIB, is sitting on big investment losses with its shares worth €192,000, compared to more than €7m in 2007.
Other bishops on the share register include Dr Tom Flynn, retired Bishop of Achonry, and Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick. St Finian's diocese in Mullingar, saw its share value drop from more than €10.1m in 2007 to just €271,000.
St Patrick's College, secondary school in Carlow, has also seen its large shareholding of 628,000 shares drop in value from highs of €11.7m to around €314,000.
College president Fr Caoimhin O'Neill said the shares had been a nice earner for the school.
"We purchased them for £20,000 in 1969 and they had proved to be a wise investment that yielded good dividends," he said.
Amongst the charities, the governors of Mercer's Hospital in Dublin hold 200,000 Bank of Ireland shares that are now worth €100,000 compared with over €3.7m.
The Health Service Executive holds almost 59,000 BoI shares on behalf of Cork University Hospital, which have fallen in value from €1m to around €29,000.
A spokesman said the shares were bequeathed to the hospital to help to fund cancer research and had provided an income to its Oncology Division.
Last week, an Irish Independent special Investigation showed that the Church of Ireland was one of the biggest losers in the AIB share wipeout, with its shares falling from highs of €17.6m to just over €260,000.
Amongst the politicians who invested in Bank of Ireland, Mr O'Keeffe saw the value of his shareholding fall from €213,180 to €5,700, while Mr Bruton's investment has fallen from €123,515 to €3,302. Ms O'Rourke's 6,000 shares are now worth €3,000 compared to €33,000 at their height.
Ms Harney and her husband's BoI shares, meanwhile, have fallen from €95,625 to €10,625.
Bank of Ireland has emerged from the banking crisis as the best of Ireland's bad banks, having escaped nationalisation.
The bank has said it doesn't need any further financial assistance from the Government, which already has a 36.5pc stake in BoI since injecting €3.5bn into the bank earlier this year.
The bank's prospects are brighter than AIB's and the register shows that a small number of charities have started to put money into BoI shares since the collapse.
The Incorporated Society for promoting Protestant Schools acquired 75,000 shares this year, spending about €56,000. That investment is now down to €37,500 but the shares are likely to be held for many years.
Charities such as the Samaritans and the Irish Cancer Society have also bought the bank's shares recently.
A number of county education boards, meanwhile, have also seen their investments in both BoI and AIB virtually disappear.