Dáil debate into State’s sale of AIB shareholding blocked

Reacting to this decision Deputy Mc Grath, stated:

“Astonishingly, at today’s meeting (13th January) of the Dáil business committee, I sought to have an urgent debate into the Minister for Finance’s decision and strategy to sell-off part of the State’s 71.12 shareholding in AIB, debated on the floor of the chamber next week.”

“Many aspects of this sell-off require scrutiny, not least, whether the best interests of taxpayers are being served, by a bank which was bailed out at a cost of €21 billion; yet, is allowed by the government to give taxpayers “the two fingers”, as it engages in hollowing out Irish retail banking, while putting profits before social obligations.”

“The failure of the government to protect the public interest means that AIB alone was allowed to close 75 branches across the State since being bailed out. 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.”

“Therefore, it is bizarre as to why government and opposition TDs on the business committee, would not support a full Dáil debate on these matters. Pushing this issue into the Finance committee dilutes the seriousness of these matters and gives the government cover.”

“The Finance Minister has shown that he cannot be trusted to protect the public interest when it comes to banking matters, 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.”

“That is why my Rural Independent Group colleagues and I, believe it is crucial to have a frank and open 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, rather than being side-lined into a committee controlled by the government.” concluded Deputy Mc Grath.