Sunday 18 August 2019

Fretful-looking character in the dock in sharp contrast with chipper banker

David Drumm arrives at court yesterday. Photo: Collins
David Drumm arrives at court yesterday. Photo: Collins
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

It took David Drumm some time to work a mint loose from the tattered packet he had extracted from his suit pocket, before popping it into his mouth.

Having something to do, however small, appeared to buy him some relief for a short time.

And then he was back again with the endless tapping of his fingers on his wrist. Waiting, just waiting.

This reckoning had been a long time coming. But this final stretch appeared to be an ordeal almost too much for the country's most notorious banker to endure.

His face bore a haunted look and spoke of sleepless nights.

At many points of the day he heaved a heavy sigh that seemed to come from his very core.

Only 51, he appeared to have aged a decade at a rapid pace, now a rather elderly and fretful-looking character, in sharp contrast with the chipper, assured manner he had projected during his Anglo peak.

He had brought a book into courtroom 19 in an attempt to distract himself during the fallow periods.

Though he did his best to hide the cover, it turned out to be John Simpson's 'We Chose to Speak of War and Strife', a history of foreign correspondents down the years.

Possibly the title spoke to him, war and strife being an environment to which he has become well accustomed over the past decade, battling first with Anglo's relentlessly plummeting balance sheets and then against the authorities who sought him.

But in the end, it all boiled down to this ignominious conclusion in a packed and stuffy courtroom.

His barrister Brendan Grehan, in a plea for leniency, described him as a man who came from "humble beginnings" in Skerries, north Co Dublin.

He was one of seven children. The son of a truck driver who had died when Drumm was 26, his mother, a hairdresser who had retired only recently.

From sitting his Leaving Cert at 16, Drumm did an accountancy apprenticeship before joining Anglo in 1993 and being sent to the US to head up operations in 1998.

"He's here on his own," the lawyer pointed out, saying that Drumm did not want his extended family to be exposed to further adverse publicity on his account.

Drumm had admitted he had made a "huge error of judgment". But these were "chaotic" times, claimed Mr Grehan. Drumm had said he could remember wondering "if the world as we knew it was ever going to be the same again", he added.

The sentencing was put back by half an hour twice, but when Judge Karen O'Connor finally took her seat at 4pm, Drumm almost seemed relieved.

"Sit down please, Mr Drumm," she said crisply.

She was precise in her words: "This court is not sentencing Mr Drumm for causing the financial crisis. Nor is this court sentencing Mr Drumm for the recession which occurred," she said.

He would be sentenced only for the "two specific offences" for which he had been convicted, she added.

As she drew to a conclusion, saying she was of the view that an appropriate "headline figure" was eight years' imprisonment, Drumm's fingers began to tap once again, continuing as the judge settled on six years, taking into account the mitigating factors.

He sighed heavily and looked down at his hands. Clearly some chink of hope had been extinguished.

At a signal from the prison officer, Drumm picked up his jacket and left.

A short walk away at the National Museum at Collins Barracks, the old shiny Anglo Irish Bank sign from the St Stephen's Green HQ hangs as a symbol of modern Ireland.

The sign became a museum piece a whole six years before Drumm finally landed in jail. And it still seems to reverberate with the bodyshock of those painful years.

Irish Independent

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