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Stress tests? No thanks, I'm sitting a college exam

TO the casual observer, the 50-something man sitting on the wooden bench next to Trinity College's cricket ground at 4.25pm last Thursday afternoon could quite easily have been any one of the institution's professors.

Modestly attired in black slacks, sensible black shoes and with a black windcheater to protect him from the unpredictability of Irish spring weather, former AIB chief executive Eugene Sheehy appeared not to have a care in the world as he leafed casually through the pages of a newspaper someone else had left behind.

Sitting unnoticed and undisturbed in the midst of students, many of whom will probably have to emigrate as a consequence of the destruction wrought on the economy by our banking system, Mr Sheehy certainly wasn't paying any particular attention to the fact that the results of the banking system stress tests were being announced at that precise moment by the governor of the Central Bank, Patrick Honohan, over on Dame Street.

Nor did he appear to be minded to seek out a radio to listen to Finance Minister Michael Noonan's address to the Dail just minutes later, in which he dramatically described the night of the banking guarantee as the "blackest day in Ireland since the Civil War broke out".

Had Mr Sheehy tuned into the Finance Minister's speech he may well have even appreciated the Civil War reference, given that he is now a fulltime student of history at Trinity College.

But whatever interest he may have in the subject, recent history isn't something Eugene Sheehy -- who now subsists on a pension of just €458,000 a year -- likes to talk about.

It's hardly surprising when one considers the pivotal role the bank he presided over with such hubris played in the country's economic ruination.

Approached by the Sunday Independent for comment on the stress tests, the results and recommendations of which will now see AIB receive an additional €13.3bn on top of the €7.2bn of taxpayers' money already committed to it, Mr Sheehy responded in terms that will either puzzle or infuriate a public being forced to pick up the bill.

"It's a sad day but I don't know the workings of the stress tests," the former career banker replied uneasily, and only after some careful consideration.

Asked if he ever thought he would see the day when AIB would be nationalised, Mr Sheehy -- who famously declared in 2008 that he "would rather die" than see his bank accept a bailout from the taxpayer -- responded sheepishly, saying: "I wish things had turned out differently."

Pressed for a response on what he would say to ordinary taxpayers who would now be forced to foot the massive bill for the bailout of AIB along with the rest of Ireland's broken banks, Mr Sheehy paused before saying: "Well I regret everything that happened and I wish that it could have been different. I'm trying to live a private life."

And with that, the former financial high flyer took his leave of the Sunday Independent and disappeared back inside Trinity's hallowed halls, along with his homework.

Meanwhile, tens of billions of euro belonging to the taxpayer is once again being handed over to our failed banks instead of being used to create jobs, boost the beleaguered economy and improve our hard-pressed public services.

Sunday Independent