Monday 22 January 2018

O'Donnell has parting shot with 'bloody keys'

Bono's former neighbour takes one last stand at Bank of Ireland AGM

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

There were people with much bigger problems than the O'Donnells at the Bank of Ireland AGM. Regardless of the €71m they owe.

There was single mother Danielle Montgomery, a public servant, who has been told by the bank that her mortgage is "not sustainable" after the rates went up.

Now she and her infant son face the prospect of losing their home, despite her status as a permanent pensionable employee of the State.

"You wouldn't have a business if it wasn't for people like me," she told the board.

Brian O’Donnell handing over his keys to Richie Boucher at the Bank of Ireland AGM yesterday
Brian O’Donnell handing over his keys to Richie Boucher at the Bank of Ireland AGM yesterday
Removal van pictured leaving the O'Donnell home, Gorse Hill

She was promptly referred to the customer service desk outside the AGM, in the lobby of O'Reilly Hall in UCD.

Or there was the mortgage holder who fell into arrears after a life-threatening bout of ill-health.

He now owes the bank €22,321.38 in arrears - of this, he claimed, €15,000 was attributable to "extortionate interest rates".

Otherwise, he would be just €7,000 in arrears, he claimed.

He was informed the board could not enter into any individual customer issues.

There was the Kerryman in jazzy scarlet trainers who claimed to have known "several" people the bank had caused to take their own lives.

Blaise and Alexandra O’Donnell
Blaise and Alexandra O’Donnell
Brian O’Donnell leaving Gorse Hill with Jerry Beades yesterday – possibly for the last time. Photo: Justin Farrelly

There was even Senator Shane Ross - who told the AGM that he had once been 'a substantial shareholder' but thanks to a plummet in the share price, his stake is now worth approximately €4,000.

And there was the elderly shareholder who proffered a brown envelope filled with his "bridge winnings"; asking the board to dish out the cash to the grandmothers who had lost so much in shareholdings that they could not afford to give anything to their grandchildren for their Confirmation.

The envelope was taken in uneasy silence by the board.

But none of these situations was going to command any headlines after Brian O'Donnell pulled off an even more spectacular stunt: physically chucking the keys of Gorse Hill at CEO Richie Boucher just before kick-off.

Looping them on his finger, he threw them on the table with an air that was casual, while laced with furious intent.

"Here are the keys to Gorse Hill you spent €9m getting," he told him.

His grand gesture seemed lost on Mr Boucher, who eyed Mr O'Donnell with a weariness that only a six-year legal battle can induce.

We couldn't help but notice that Mr O'Donnell had gone to the thought and trouble to have a large keyring specially printed up, which bore the embossed legend: "The Bloody Keys."

In fact, they weren't even 'the bloody keys' at all, as it turned out.

Because while all this was panning out, the 'self-styled' New Land League had gone to the equal trouble of changing the locks at the Vico Road mansion right next door to the property owned by the hard-working Bono - who is currently preparing to go on a tour of 20 cities in Europe and North America, taking in a staggering 70 nights, to pay for the bills of a household of equal prestige between now and November.

Brian O'Donnell has cleared out the last of his possessions and left Gorse Hill, savouring the blazing sunshine and stiff seaside breezes of Vico Road for one final time.

However, even in defeat the smell of battle remains in the air. As the bank AGM was unfolding, back on the Hill Jerry Beades of the New Land League met the receiver.

"I didn't give any keys to the receiver, I just used the fob to open the gate and then I handed the fob to the gardaí.

"We were fully cooperative at all times," he said, before later warning that Vico ltd will issue proceedings against the receiver in the coming days for trespass.

Back in UCD, Mr O'Donnell pointed out yesterday he had been through the courts "82 times" and had been refused 82 times.

"Statistically impossible," he said.

He will now be taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Some 500 seats had been laid out in the room for shareholders and 350 were occupied, mostly by anxious-faced, elderly shareholders.

Brian O'Donnell and his son, Blake, took seats in the front row.

Mr O'Donnell gave a wry chuckle and shook his head as Governor Archie Kane told the meeting that the bank did everything it could to let customers in arrears stay in their homes.

An hour or so passed before Blake put up his hand to speak, raising the familiar bone of contention of the legality of Bank of Ireland's private banking arm.

Blake claimed during the meeting that the lender's private banking arm had been investigated for fraud in 2013 and was being "secretly" wound down.

He claimed he had heard the bank was "quietly winding down" its private banking division. This was swiftly dispatched by Mr Kane.

True to form, the last word went to Brian O'Donnell as he accused the bank's senior executives of making him and his wife bankrupt and accused Mr Boucher of presiding over massive losses at the bank since taking charge.

There was time for one final press statement before Mr O'Donnell headed off into the unknown horizon.

The family are "staying with friends and relatives," he revealed.

Irish Independent

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