Strangely civilised meeting shows what a difference a year can make

FOR the 300 members of the Irish Nationwide who turned up at the building society’s annual general meeting yesterday many of them must have wondered if they were in the proper venue.

Normally a loud affair that tends to drag on for hours, the members who turned up got something different. Not only were there few wild outbursts from disgruntled borrowers, but several members asked pertinent questions.

It was a vastly different affair to last year's AGM, which last nearly six hours and at times lurched from heated debate to farce.

Perhaps it was something to do with the venue the bookcase-lined RDS concert hall or maybe from because at last the members will get windfall bonuses.

But whatever kept the meeting civilised, it ended after 45 minutes with a thunderous outburst from the society's deputy chairman Con Power.

When asked by one member why many of the questions about the motion to re-elect Michael Walsh as chairman were prefaced by praise for him, Mr Power demanded that the member retract his statement.

"I have been grotesquely insulted in an appalling fashion," the normally reserved Mr Power responded, adding it was one of the most outrageous hurtful, allegations he had ever heard. After several more fiery exchanges, he exacted a retraction from the cowering member.

And with the issue of directors' re-election settled the meeting moved on the main business of the day: when and how the society would de-mutualise and what each member would get.

Shane Hogan, who has campaigned for some years with Brendan Burgess to convert the society, said he was opposed to staff, and in particular managing director Michael Fingleton receiving a huge payout.

However, there was plenty of support for the veteran Mr Fingleton in the crowd, who were quite happy to show their adoration for him.

"Mr Fingleton you are a gentleman that the Irish people should be proud of," one elderly member said, to much applause.

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