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Shareholders hit out at Bank of Ireland's call for rights issue

Bank of Ireland bosses came under fire today after asking exasperated shareholders to fork out for more stocks.

Hundreds of people, many of them lifelong investors, attended a special meeting in Dublin to hear the lender's case for a rights issue.

Clusters of applause broke out as audience members challenged the proposals and berated management for reckless decisions made during the economic boom.

While some shareholders were determined to fight the plans, others claimed the move was unavoidable.

"They have the big corporate companies behind them so it is a no-win situation for the small shareholders," 73-year-old Mary Fitzgerald said.

"I'm so disappointed because over the years my husband worked very hard and so did I.

"We did not take our dividends, we took shares instead so we would be comfortable in our old age.

"Here they are now looking for our money."

Michael O'Rourke from Clane, Co Kildare bought his shares three years ago after illness prevented him from working.

The 59-year-old said he had no faith in the bank's current chiefs.

"They're double crossers and parasites - we were the people that held the thing up and put our faith in it," he added.

"Now my shares are worth nothing and I'm having to get more money to try and save myself."

Management insisted the plans would make the bank stronger, while chief executive Richie Boucher remained tight-lipped in the face of shareholders' criticism.

He also failed to raise a smile when one wry shareholder asked if Bank of Ireland stocks could be used as collateral when applying for a loan to buy the new shares.

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Chairman and former chief executive Pat Molloy said the bank would act responsibly in future.

"We very much regret the predicament in which shareholders find themselves," he said.

"We are recommending strongly that you should vote for this transaction but it is really for you to decide in your own particular circumstances what's appropriate for you.

"I think we all understand and we've certainly seen in the last year or two just how volatile share prices can be, influenced by all sorts of factors outside our control."

Father-of-five Gerry Murphy said he would probably take up the option to buy more shares.

"Mr Molloy inspires confidence - the rest of them are part of the old school that have destroyed the bank," he said.

"I'm beginning to trust them but I think that their lending was absolutely outrageous."

Meanwhile, Paula Glasgow from Blackrock, south Dublin said during the Celtic Tiger years she would never have predicted a rights issue.

"We all thought our money was as secure as it would be in gold, we had no idea that the bank would mismanage funds," she added."

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