Donegal TDs have raised concern over the future of Ulster Bank in Ireland, following reports on proposals that the bank may withdraw from the state.
The chief executive of Ulster Bank has told staff that no decision has been taken on the bank’s future in the Republic.
However, NatWest are reportedly deciding on a strategic review of Irish operations this afternoon.
Donegal Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty raised the matter with the Tánaiste in the Dáil.
Ulster Bank currently operates five branches in County Donegal in Killybegs, Donegal Town, Ballybofey, Letterkenny and Buncrana, with a mobile bank based in Donegal Town that serves other communities.
Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Doherty said any decision to leave the market would be a “hammer blow” for workers, communities, mortgage holders and small businesses.
“Ulster Bank plays a key role in our communities, providing jobs to 2,400 people across the State, with 88 branches and over 1 million customers. This includes the five branches in Donegal.
“It is a major player in our banking sector, responsible for 20 percent of SME lending with a 15 percent share in the mortgage market.
“In December 2020, the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank warned me that the withdrawal of Ulster Bank could lead to higher interest rates and weaker credit availability.
“That is the reality before us. There has been speculation for months now that Cerberus, one of the most aggressive vulture funds in the State, is circling Ulster Bank’s entire €20.5 billion euro loan book. This would be an unacceptable outcome for homeowners and borrowers that must be avoided.
“This requires a coordinated response from the Government.
“The State remains a key player in the Irish banking market. With a 14 percent stake in Bank of Ireland, it is a majority shareholder in both AIB and Permanent TSB. The Government must ensure that our pillar banks play a lead role in taking on Ulster Bank’s loan book; Offering some degree of security to mortgage holders, businesses and personal customers.”
Independent TD for Donegal Thomas Pringle added his call on Government to intervene to retain Ulster Bank as a retail banking entity in Ireland.
Deputy Pringle said: “Banks are always driven by profit margins and not the needs of the communities they serve. We need the Government to step in, stand with the people, and make sure the needs of communities in Donegal and across Ireland are served and the jobs of thousands of people are protected.”
He added: “The five Ulster Bank branches in Donegal are among 88 branches across the country. When we talk about branches, we’re talking about many, many thousands of people who will be affected by this decision, people who work there, people who bank there, people who have home and business mortgages with Ulster Bank.
“What’s going to happen to mortgage holders whose mortgages are going to be offloaded to vulture funds? The banking industry is changing hugely, but these job losses, taken out of anybody’s control, will have a huge impact on families across Donegal and across the country.
“The Department of Finance and the Central Bank must intervene to protect the interests of the Irish people,” he said.