His resignation from the country’s second largest bank will leave Irish Life & Permanent (IL&P) chair Gillian Bowler as the last chairman standing in the major banks whose assets have been guaranteed by the state.
Challenged to resign by angry shareholders at the recent stormy extraordinary general meeting of the bank, Mr Burrows said he would step down before the AGM in July and put his name forward for re-election as chairman.
However, the massive losses by the bank announced yesterday put the gun to his head and he decided to step down.
In a statement he apologised on behalf of the directors to shareholders for the loss in value of their shares and the cancellation of dividends.
He said “accountability” for the losses had “to be taken at the top”.
From the outset of this crisis the Government has announced its determination to see a clean sweep out of the executives linked to the difficulties the banks have been plunged into by reckless lending to the construction sector.
Just recently the top executives at AIB announced their decision to step down also, although chief executive Eugene Sheehy said he would serve out his term as chief executive. After the top brass at AIB announced their intention to quit Mr Burrows became more isolated.
Gillian Bowler, having sacked her top three executives over the dodgy €7.5 billion lent to Anglo Irish Bank last September, survived the IL&P AGM and got solid backing for her re-election as chair of the group.
Fine Gael’s deputy spokesman on finance, Kieran O’Donnell, said: “Richard Burrows’s resignation is a welcome move, and I am pleased that someone at his level has accepted responsibility for their mistakes.
He added that his departure means the run of high-level banking resignations is now drawing to a close.
“Almost all the key personnel who presided over some of the biggest excesses of the unsustainable housing bubble have now gone. We have seen the departure of executives at Bank of Ireland, AIB, Anglo Irish, Irish Nationwide, and Irish Life & Permanent.
“Financial Regulator Patrick Neary has already resigned and Central Bank Governor John Hurley has indicated that he plans to retire.
Two of the three chief political architects of the housing bubble have also left the scene, with Charlie McCreevy packed off to Europe many years ago, and Bertie Ahern forced from office last year. The only person left who was in a leadership role during this whole debacle is Brian Cowen. With so many of his peers and contemporaries now departed, Brian Cowen’s days as Taoiseach must be numbered,” he said.