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Monday 15 July 2019

Gillian Bowler is abused on street

GILLIAN BOWLER: Shaken after being verbally abused and 'shoved' during a shopping trip in an up-market suburb
GILLIAN BOWLER: Shaken after being verbally abused and 'shoved' during a shopping trip in an up-market suburb

John Whelan and Jerome Reilly

Gillian Bowler, the chairman of Irish Life & Permanent (IL&P), was verbally abused and "shoved" by a furious pensioner as she shopped at the up-market suburb of Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

The incident last week left the well-known businesswoman and former Failte Ireland chairwoman shaken.

It happened in the days after Irish Life & Permanent CEO, Denis Casey, and two other senior executives, Peter Fitzpatrick and David Gantly, resigned when details emerged of dubious multi-billion lodgements with the beleaguered Anglo Irish Bank.

A woman in her 70s launched a venomous attack after identifying Ms Bowler as the bank chairwoman in the aisle of a shop.

"Gillian shrugged it off," said a friend, "She is very conscious not to exaggerate it, but it would have been much better if this hadn't happened."

Ms Bowler, one of the best known businesswomen in the country, was not available for comment this weekend.

A spokesman said: "Her focus around the clock is Irish Life & Permanent and helping the board and management through these current difficulties." The incident with Gillian Bowler is not an isolated one. Public anger with the banking sector is manifesting itself around the country, with bank staff bearing the brunt of unfocused rage.

People have witnessed counter staff being verbally abused by customers in bank branches around the country -- and being accused of causing the current financial crisis.

But now they are facing sometimes violent abuse, not just at work, but even when they are out socially in the evening.

The Irish Bank Officials Association (IBOA), which represents over 20,000 workers in Ireland's financial sector, said staff at banks had been facing growing abuse.

"We are seeing this kind of abuse not just in the working day but even socially in the evening," said general secretary Larry Broderick.

"Many of our members now are saying that they are reluctant to go out in the evening or indeed to identify themselves as bank workers," he said.

"We are trying to differentiate between senior managers as distinct from ordinary bank workers."

Ironically, bank workers who are being spat at and threatened with physical violence by customers have themselves lost a fortune in the banking collapse.

Ordinary bank officials once had €50m worth of shares in profit-sharing schemes in Bank of Ireland and AIB, but the shares are worth just a fraction of that in line with the stock market collapse.

"A lot of people working at banks opted to take shares in lieu of pay because it was more tax efficient and they are now under serious financial pressure. They are suffering themselves and now find themselves being abused by members of the public. It is wrong and it is also very unfair," said Mr Broderick.

Concern about a growing level of social unrest was also illustrated when gardai yesterday privately warned some publicans in Dublin city centre to pull down their shutters during yesterday's march by public servants for fear that windows might be broken.

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