Speaking from his Tipperary constituency, the leader of the Rural Independent Group, Deputy Mattie Mc Grath, stated:
“AIB was bailed out by almost €21 billion during the bank bailout, with taxpayers paying the bill. Instead of any gratitude, the bank gave the taxpayers “the two fingers” and were supported by the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donoghue.”
“The failure of the government to protect the public interest means that AIB alone was allowed to close 75 branches across the State since 2008. In fact, the bank cynically used the bailout capital to restructure itself away from retail banking and more into the shadow (investment) banking side.”
“Since being bailed out, AIB has fixated on decreasing costs through staff cuts and branch closures. Staff numbers were cut by 1,183 at AIB between 2016 and 2020, yet the wage bill at the bank ballooned by €30 million over the same period, illustrative of the bank’s top brass now receiving higher salaries. This raises serious questions around justification for branch closures.”
“Despite the bank’s strategy, the Minister for Finance, as the largest shareholder, has remained shamefully silent. Such silence becomes complicit, allowing bankers to do as they wished. Selling any further state shareholding, without debating these issues first, would be the bankers wish.”
“This government and previous administrations have abdicated their responsibilities in allowing banks, like AIB, force the brunt of bank branch closures, since the financial crisis, on rural communities. The outcome thus means people and small businesses nationwide are experiencing a troubling decline in access to basic financial services.”
“Prior to closures, many rural communities often had only one or two bank branches, meaning even one closure could leave residents and businesses vulnerable to predatory practices, as banking ‘deserts’ do not bode well for our national economy.”
“Towns and rural communities weaken as branches close. A mobile phone is no substitute for a full-service bank branch. One may be able to transfer money, but the option of developing an ongoing relationship with that internet branch or app (if accessible broadband exists), to procure a small business loan, a mortgage or other types of personal credit, is impossible.”
“The bank bailout occurred because of inadequate government oversight. The net cost to the taxpayers was €42 billion. Since the bailout, the government wilfully allowed bailed out banks to close branches and refuse access to credit nationally.”
“Many viable branches were closed to cynically boost profits for their own self-serving agenda, devoid of consideration to people and businesses in those communities.”
“The Finance Minister has shown that he cannot be trusted to protect the public interest, as he is more aligned with the interests of bankers than ordinary people. After all, he reduced the bank levy by €75 million from 2022 and continues to give all profitable banks a tax break, despite all Irish banks fleecing customers with the highest banking charges and interest rates in the Eurozone.”
“Against this backdrop, we believe it is crucial to have a fully frank Dail debate on these issues before approval to sell any further shareholding in AIB. The public deserve transparency and input; their banking concerns must be heard and debated on the floor of Dail Éireann,” concluded Deputy Mc Grath.
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