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'Safe bet' on bank stocks goes belly-up

THE collapse of Ireland's major banks is a financial nightmare for people who held shares in AIB, Bank of Ireland, Anglo Irish Bank and now Irish Life & Permanent.

These once blue-chip investments have turned to dust and there is a faint prospect these shares will ever fully recover.

This is the true cost of the reckless mismanagement of these banks during the property boom that has wiped out the wealth of many bank staff, households all over Ireland, churches and charities, who invested their money in these institutions.

The Church of Ireland was one of the biggest AIB shareholders with 750,000 shares that were once worth as much as €17m and are now worth less than €270,000.

The Catholic Church is also nursing huge losses on Bank of Ireland. The Dublin Archdiocese held around 540,000 shares that were once worth as much as €10.1m but are now valued at €270,000.

Charities hit by the share-price meltdown include Mercers Hospital, which had more than 200,000 BoI shares that are now worth just over €100,000, and another 25,000 AIB shares valued at €8,750.

Other charities with bank stocks include St Luke's Hospital Board in Dublin, the National Council for the Blind, the Jewish Home of Ireland and a number of Protestant Orphan Societies.

Many households also bought the shares, perhaps as an investment for their retirement or to fund their children's education and many elderly people relied on the income from the dividends to contribute towards nursing home or other costs.

None of these people could be described as having been reckless with their money. These stocks were always viewed as a safe bet and had proved to be nice earners for a long time. That wealth, like the banks, has been destroyed.

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