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02/08/2021

Ulster Bank withdrawal from Ireland is a "hammer blow" for workers and consumers - Donegal TD

Bank has five branches in Donegal

Ulster Bank withdrawal from Ireland is a "hammer blow" for workers and consumers - Donegal TD

A Donegal TD has described the announcement that Ulster Bank is withdrawing from the Irish market as a hammer blow for workers and consumers.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has called on the government to use its influence in pillar banks and Permanent TSB to minimise the damage caused by Ulster Bank’s withdrawal; including the creation of a third force to challenge what would otherwise be a virtual duopoly in the market.

Ulster Bank employs 2,800 people in the Republic and has six branches in the north west, in Letterkenny, Buncrana, Ballybofey, Donegal Town, Killybegs and one in Sligo.

He has also called for the establishment of a Future of Banking Forum, involving key stakeholders, to consider the current state and long-term future of the Irish banking sector.

Deputy Doherty said: “The announcement is a hammer blow for workers, communities, mortgage holders and small businesses.

"Ulster Bank has played a key role in our communities for more than 160 years, providing jobs to 2,800 people across the State, with 88 branches and over one million customers.

“Its exit from the market will create great uncertainty and anxiety for staff and for customers, and also poses a serious risk to our banking sector.

“I welcome the fact that this withdrawal is not immediate, and that Ulster Bank have been in discussions with AIB and Permanent TSB.

“However, we must ensure that this withdrawal does not result in a virtual duopoly in the SME market, for example.

“It is clear that the sale of a large part of Ulster Bank’s loan book to AIB would inevitably raise concerns among competition authorities.

He pointed out that this is an opportunity to create a third force in our banking sector to compete against what would otherwise be a highly concentrated market; with the risk of higher interest rates and weaker credit availability that this could involve.

“The preference of Ulster Bank for discussions of sale with parties that can provide full banking services is welcome. This should be done with the aim of retaining the jobs, experience and expertise of Ulster Bank staff who have been disrespected throughout this entire process,” he added.

“We should not allow any part of its mortgage loan book to be sold off to vulture funds who have no long-term interest in Ireland or Irish homeowners.

“I am also calling for the government to establish a Future of Banking Forum, involving key stakeholders, to assess the current state of the Irish banking market and its long-term future.

“Today is a sad day for the staff and customers of Ulster Bank. It is also a bad day for our banking sector and for the broader economy.

“The government must now take a coordinated approach to minimise the damage caused by Ulster Bank’s withdrawal."

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