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Spring under pressure over €3m payment to ex-AIB boss

Former Tanaiste Dick Spring was under mounting pressure last night over his role in the controversial €3m payment for former AIB boss Colm Doherty.

Mr Spring and Dublin Airport Authority chief executive Declan Collier -- the Government-appointed public-interest directors of AIB -- were yesterday branded as "dummies".

Coalition ministers and opposition TDs alike were highly critical yesterday of the board of directors for agreeing a package with Mr Doherty worth €3m last year.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, who served in Cabinet under Mr Spring in Government from 1992 to 1997, said the AIB board "wasn't acting in the public interest" in signing off on the deal.

"We disapprove of the deal, so obviously we disapprove of the board acceding to it and that includes every member of the board that made that decision," he said.

Mr Howlin refused to say if Mr Spring should now resign as a result. "The Government disapproved of that severance package. In the current climate that is unacceptable," he said.

"I am not going to go through every individual member of it. The board, as a collective, wasn't acting in the public interest as I have already indicated and that is the Government's position," he added.

But Independent TD Shane Ross questioned if the "dummies" who approved the payments to Mr Doherty were going to be sacked.

"What does the minister propose to do about the 'dummies' appointed as public-interest directors," Mr Ross said.

"These were the people who allowed the agreement and the contract of Colm Doherty to go ahead, and signed it.

"Those are the Government appointees. Are those people, Mr Declan Collier and Mr Dick Spring, going to be allowed to stay on the board?" he added.

Former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has also pointed the finger at Mr Collier and Mr Spring over the payments to Mr Doherty.

"The public-interest directors of AIB lobbied for the appointment of this individual but as Minister for Finance I was successful in imposing a limit on banker salaries," he said.

Mr Spring and Mr Collier were unavailable for comment.

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