It was midway through the roasting of Ted McGovern, the €760,000-a-year EBS boss, at last Monday’s AGM when a well-groomed woman rose to speak. Ted beamed. Only a few minutes earlier the masses had been shaping to storm the platform.
She was no friend of Ethna Tinney, the EBS board’s victim. She supported the board and above all she admired Ted. This was a hook against the head for the board. A surprise ally. Was the well-tailored woman another loyal victim of the EBS, I wondered? Or just a board stooge, a plant in a hostile audience?
She looked a bit too comfortably-off to be an EBS victim; but it was difficult to know, as she had merely given her name as “Mary Caffrey”. There are millions of Marys and scores of prosperous Caffreys.
Mary C was on a mission.
“Shane Ross,” she thundered (a propos of nothing) is “a self-serving, publicity-seeking individual both as a journalist and a politician.” My own mother would probably say “hear hear” to that.
He is “campaign manager” for Ms Tinney, she declared with venom. Rock on Mary! But who in God’s name are you, I wondered?
She then dubbed me a “fantasist, an opponent of mutuality, a manipulator.” Bang on, Mary Caffrey; but the debate was meant to be about Ethna.
Quite a bit more bile followed from this seemingly ordinary EBS member.
Ted’s smile widened further; the board nodded approvingly; chairman Mark Moran indulged Mary’s rhetoric, where he had cut others short. Q4, the board’s overpaid PR spivs, lurked in the background and smirked.
No one should blame EBS chairman Mark Moran for permitting this polemic. He had been given stick for a couple of hours; he was momentarily enjoying himself. Ted too was entitled to his surprise moment in the sun. Indeed, most of what the well-manicured lady said brought a bit of balanced spleen to liven up proceedings.
But who was she? Another EBS employee press-ganged into action?
EBS employees were conspicuous by their presence at last Monday’s AGM, cheerleaders for the board in a room overwhelmingly opposed to it. As Mary Caffrey continued, other ordinary EBS members demanded a bit more clarity about her identity. The chairman ignored them; instead, he allowed her to rabbit on. Quite right, Mark. As an ordinary objective member, she deserved a hearing.
When Mary had finished, the ranks of the EBS employees at the back of the Burlington clapped. Ted McGovern grinned back benignly at the lady and his loyal staff. But who was this very middle-class woman? She opted not to tell us. I sought a photographer to take her picture; but the lady had vanished.
I headed for the gents. As I entered I felt a heavy hand thrusting an anonymous note into my pocket. “The lady who insulted you personally,” it read, “is the wife of EBS managing director, Ted McGovern.” Wow – It was the boss’s missus! Ms Mary Caffrey – ordinary member – was Mrs Ted McGovern plutocrat, wife of Ethna’s arch-enemy, the man on the big fees. She had presumably retreated to her up-market Dalkey homestead. No wonder the employees at the back clapped as Ted eyed them from the platform. Good thinking. They were clapping the boss’s missus.
Later, when challenged, Mark Moran maintained that he had no idea that the speaker was Ted’s wife. So the EBS chairman does not recognise the EBS chief executive’s missus? An unusual, but not impossible, situation.
But, very helpfully, Ted confessed that Mary C was Mrs Ted. In a brisk conversation, the dour Scot told me he saw no reason why she should identify herself as his wife. She was a woman in her own right. She just happened to be married to the man living off the members’ €760,000 a year. No need to tell the members.
And that is Ted. No need to tell anybody anything.
Ted’s own AGM performance was true to form. When a member asked chairman Mark Moran the cost of the Rabobank debacle, Mark hadn’t a clue. Ted himself did not have the figures “available at his fingertips.” “My best guess,” he added pathetically, “it was €3.5m.” Ethna intervened. “Ted, it was €6m.” Bullseye for Ethna.
Ted told the members nothing. The boss said less at the AGM than his missus.
Far more seriously, there are other EBS matters we were never meant to know. In late 2006 an approach was made by AIB, hoping to take over EBS. Again, Ted and Mark never told the members.
Best to leave the talking to the missus.