Responding to the news that Ulster Bank plans to withdraw from Ireland, Labour Councillor Peter O’Brien says he backs his party’s call for the government to intervene to ensure that jobs are saved.
The Dundrum councillor also called for the local branch network to be “protected through the creation of a third banking force.”
“This devastating news is a hammer blow for the 2,800 Ulster Bank staff, for their customers and for businesses across Ireland, but especially for Dundrum where the bank is a central part of our community,” Councillor O’Brien said.
“My immediate thoughts and concerns are with the bank’s dedicated staff whose future is uncertain.
“Any sale or potential merger must respect the right of staff to have their existing terms and conditions transferred with them and compulsory redundancies should be off the table.
“The Minister for Finance has repeatedly said that any decision by NatWest on the future of Ulster Bank is for them to make.
“Now that decision has been made there is an onus on the Minister to take on the responsibility to chart a way forward in the interests of staff, customers and competition.”
Councillor O’Brien said the decision of Ulster Bank to wind down operations in Ireland needs to be done in a manner which doesn’t negatively impact on the banks customers.
“What we need to avoid is the piecemeal dismantling of the bank and its operations by vulture funds and other Irish banks which will damage any effort to create a real third force,” he said.
“It is incumbent on the government and the Minister for Finance to drive such an outcome rather than acting as commentators.
“The bank and its assets are now vulnerable and any fire sale of assets to vulture funds must be categorically ruled out.
“This challenge for the banking sector represents an opportunity if the Minister for Finance is willing to grasp it.
“The State is the majority shareholder in Permanent TSB and has behaved like a sleeping partner and not a majority owner.
“With some imagination from government the long hoped for third banking force could be formed out of the ashes of this crisis for Irish banking.
“The Labour Party and other stakeholders are prepared to be constructive and engage with government to secure as many jobs as possible and to help reframe the Irish banking sector in a way that will provide choice for consumers and support our economic recovery.
“I am urging the Minister to ensure the retail banking network isn’t lost because it will have a huge impact on our community.”