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Now it's Gillian's turn to go

As shareholders of Irish Life & Permanent prepare for tomorrow's Annual General Meeting the question on everyone's lips is, for how long can chairman Gillian Bowler hang on?

With shareholder anger mounting, the clamour for Bowler's resignation is growing.

AIB shareholders vented their anger at the group's management at the bank's shareholders meeting.

It says something about the low esteem in which bank directors are now held that most people's only regret at the egg throwing incident was the fact that the angry shareholder missed his target.


Tomorrow, it is the turn of IL&P directors and management to be exposed to the wrath of their shareholders.

While its share price hasn't fallen by as much as that of AIB, down by "only" about 90pc since its February 2007 peak, that's more than enough to annoy the hell out its shareholders.

And as if that wasn't bad enough, there was last February's fiasco after it emerged that IL&P had placed a €7.5bn phoney deposit with Anglo Irish in September 2008 to allow the disgraced bank to pretty up its books.

Instead of immediately demanding that IL&P chief executive Denis Casey quit, Bowler and her fellow-directors made a complete mess of things.

While IL&P finance director Peter Fitzpatrick (no relation of former Anglo chairman Sean Fitzpatrick) and head of treasury David Gantly both walked the plank after an all-night board meeting, the board initially "refused to accept" Casey's resignation.

It was only after Finance Minister Brian Lenihan summoned the IL&P non-executive directors to his office for a second time and made it explicitly clear that Casey had to go that the recalcitrant chief executive finally agreed to resign.


There is little doubt that Bowler, who was paid €288,000 last year, was badly weakened by the Casey affair.

She was widely perceived to have been faced down by the combative Casey last February. Not to put too fine a point on it, many analysts now reckon that she is a dead woman walking.

In fact, since the Government unconditionally guaranteed the deposits and bonds of the six Irish-owned Irish banks last September, all but two of their chairman and five out of the six chief executives (ESB chief executive Fergus Murphy only started the job in January 2008) have gone.

Bowler and her counterpart at Bank of Ireland Richard Burrows are the only two of the pre-September 2008 crop of bank bosses still standing.

No-one will be surprised if Burrows, who has been governor or chairman of Bank of Ireland since 2005, clears his desk in advance of Bank's annual shareholders meeting in July.

Which leaves us with Bowler, who has been chairman of IL&P since 2004, a year longer than Burrows.

There is little doubt but that Budget Travel founder Bowler's carefully cultivated public reputation has been badly tarnished by her involvement with IL&P.


In the aftermath of the Casey affair, she was abused on the street by an angry member of the public. For media darling Bowler it must have been a chastening experience.

Now she must face angry shareholders, with or without eggs. While the performance of IL&P's Irish Life life and pensions division has held up well under difficult circumstances, profits have collapsed at its Permanent TSB mortgage subsidiary.

After five years as IL&P chairman (she opted for the traditional title rather than the more politically correct chairwoman or chairperson), during which she presided over a huge and unsustainable increase in Permanent TSB's loan book, it is unclear what Bowler has to contribute to the company.

The best thing she could now do for IL&P is to go and go soon.