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Terry Prone: Seanie's friends should tell him cop on to how angry people are

It's being suggested that, now he's bankrupt, Sean FitzPatrick is in the stocks.

Remember them?

They were the blocks of wood with spaces for feet and hands that were set up in the middle of the town in medieval times.

Someone who had done something wrong was locked into them, and anybody who wanted to could toss a rotten tomato at them.

It was a form of public humiliation. It was also a way of warning off other potential wrongdoers, since nobody in their right mind wanted to be stuck in the stocks during a freezing winter or a boiling summer.


Even if the weather was good, someone in the stocks could be yelled at or whacked over the head by passers-by.

Sean FitzPatrick, bankrupt, is not in that situation.

He didn't even have to run the gauntlet of public disapproval by turning up in court yesterday.

His lawyers did the business for him.

He has not been charged with anything, and even if, at some point in the future, that were to happen, Ireland doesn't specialise in the American "perp walk" where a Bernie Madoff is cuffed and led out in front of the flashbulbs and the mortifying footage broadcast within minutes.

Oddly, that kind of public humiliation can have a pay-off, at least as a safety valve for public anger.

Part of the frustration in Ireland at the moment is not just the fury individuals have that their finances have been ruined by rich people they've never met.

It's the sense that those responsible are continuing to live high on the hog, holidaying in luxury resorts and throwing major parties.

"I'm screwed" is a bad feeling.

"I'm screwed and you're not, even though you deserve to be" is an even worse feeling.

Parity of poverty is what people want.

Individuals suddenly on the dole queue don't buy the idea that someone whose salary used to be in the region of a million a year is impoverished by being reduced to a hundred thousand.

They don't want their noses rubbed in the possibility that big borrowers now in NAMA still have enough free cash to take expensive holidays, drive luxury cars or continue to live what they perceive as the high life.

It doesn't seem fair to them that people at the top of big companies which owe billions can go bankrupt but stay at large while people at the bottom of the pile go to prison for relatively tiny debts.

On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that this bankruptcy came about because Anglo Irish Bank, in its new form, refused to play ball with Sean FitzPatrick.

The plan the man proposed to deal with all of his debtors was roundly rejected by his former employer.

They wouldn't wear postponement or any other process which might dent their prospects of getting the maximum out of their former chairman's assets.

If they take the same "stand and deliver" attitude to all of the former bigwigs who owe them enormous amounts of money, there's some chance the taxpayer will not be at a complete loss.


Nevertheless, Sean FitzPatrick's remaining friends would argue that it's not fair that he cannot take a walk without being pursued by journalists, and that he IS now in the equivalent of the stocks.

They have a point, although they're not making that point in public, because folk currently living in terror of a letter from their bank about their missed mortgage payment would quickly tell them that Seanie's bit of public harassment is nothing compared to the suffering they're going through.

Sean FitzPatrick's friends might usefully give him a bit of advice. Tell him to realise how angry people are.

In the face of such anger, anything that smacks of arrogance or insolence will not work.

The guys who survived a spell in the stocks were the ones who hung their heads. Silently.