Thursday, 18 February 2021
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I thank the Deputy. I am aware of the media reports in regard to the future of Ulster Bank in the Republic of Ireland. This is, as everyone in the House will appreciate, a commercial matter for its owner, NatWest. It will not be a Government decision, nor does it require Government approval. However, it is a matter of real concern and one that the Government is taking very seriously. It is a matter of real concern to Ulster Bank's customers, staff and the communities it serves.
The Minister for Finance has been in close contact with Ulster Bank and its parent, NatWest, in recent days and, indeed, in recent months, and he has kept me informed of developments. He is assessing all options with a view to protecting customers, minimising job losses and avoiding compulsory redundancies where possible, and also reducing the negative impact there could be on competition for banking services in Ireland. It is important to say that in any scenario, people's deposits and savings are fully protected and can be transferred to another bank. Two months' notice must be given to customers of any change or development such as this. When it comes to mortgages and loans, the terms and conditions will remain unchanged and EU consumer protections continue to apply.
In regard to the suggestion that we try to develop a third force in our banking sector that would be able to compete with Bank of Ireland and AIB, this is something that I and the Government support. If it is possible to develop a solution on those lines, that is something we are exploring and want to explore.