Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Enterprise, Trade and Employment): Statements
As the Tánaiste is aware, there are widespread concerns in many communities about the decision taken by NatWest Bank some time ago to consider all strategic options on the future of Ulster Bank. Ulster Bank has 88 branches in our State and has more than 2,800 employees. It has a substantial presence in the Border region, especially in my own constituency of Cavan-Monaghan, with three branches in County Cavan and one in Monaghan. It has been an integral part of Irish commercial life, and it has been trading in our country for almost 200 years. Any thought of the closure of this bank and its branch network would be devastating for many communities and for the employees of the bank. Any further diminution in banking competition in this country would be most concerning and damaging. Ulster Bank is the third largest bank and we lack banking competition in this country as it is.
In my own constituency, there are Ulster Bank branches in Ballyconnell, Cavan town, Ballyjamesduff and Monaghan town. Traditionally, Ulster Bank has been very much associated with Ulster and the Border region. It has had a very successful business, by and large, for the most of 200 years in communities right throughout our island. As the third largest bank in the country, we cannot afford to lose it. From speaking to employees for some time and interacting with private individuals and people with small and medium enterprises, I know Ulster Bank's business is across all sectors of our economy. From the perspective of employees, business, enterprise and many communities, it is essential a further clear message is sent to NatWest that we want to see Ulster Bank retained in its current format, with its 88 branches and more than 2,500 employees.
For some time, I have engaged with the Minister for Finance and the Taoiseach on this matter. I appeal to the Tánaiste, as the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, to give a clear message to NatWest management that we want to see Ulster Bank remain in our State. We do not want to see it exit our State, with the serious consequences it will entail for some many individuals, families, households and businesses of all sizes. It has been extremely important in our communities. It was subject to major rationalisation over the years. I want to see that network retained and the jobs of its employees protected.