Friday, 19 February 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I also wish to bring up the issue raised by Senator Chambers on the retreat of Ulster Bank. It was a devastating morning for the 2,800 staff employed by the bank to wake up and hear that on the news. It is really interesting is that NatWest, unexpectedly, reported pre-tax profits in the UK of £64 million. We are seeing a banking system in Ireland that is at the whim of profit. Many mortgage holders, lenders and savers are in the middle of this for-profit system of banking and saving. One of the elements of the programme for Government is a commitment to enable the credit union movement to grow as a key provider of community banking in the country. More broadly, we need to have a conversation about public banking because we cannot have what Senator Chambers referred to as a "duopoly" when it comes to banking. We must look at who is benefiting from banking. The SME sector is very much dependent on the banking system.It is key to our economy, but it is also key to our communities. We have witnessed the closure of post offices throughout the country. Post offices were very much part of banking for a very long time and that has kind of been removed from the market as well. We need to have an open conversation about where to next for businesses, communities when it comes to banking.
The leaders of the G7 are meeting today. It is a momentous day because Joe Biden is back on board with the World Health Organization and the Paris accord. As such, this is a significant day for climate and for health internationally. The commitment by many governments to donate extra vaccines to those who need them around the world is very welcome. I know that issue is up for discussion today. Ireland really needs to ramp up in that regard and give that commitment.