Dáil debate sought  on Limerick’s three per cent stake in AIB

Limerick Independent TD Richard O'Donoghue

A COUNTY Limerick politician has called for an urgent Dáil debate over the State reducing its shareholding in Ireland’s largest bank.

Rural Ireland Independent TD Richard O’Donoghue claims that AIB is indebted to the Irish taxpayer after it was the subject of a €20 billion bailout in 2008.

And he wants detailed discussion over the Government’s plan to reduce its 70 per cent shareholding in the bank.

“I believe it is crucial to have a full and frank Dáil debate before approval to sell any of our taxpayer funded shareholding in AIB. The public deserve transparency and input; their banking concerns must be heard and debated in Leinster House,” Deputy O’Donoghue told the Limerick Post.

“I stand for the ordinary people of Limerick, who collectively bailed out AIB to the tune of around a billion euro and, as a result, we, as a city and county, are actually three per cent shareholders in the bank.

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“I will make sure that any dilution of the State’s shareholding in AIB will not be at another cost to all of us taxpayers across Limerick.”

Deputy O’Donoghue claims that AIB has been allowed to hollow out retail banking in Ireland and put profits before social obligations.

“And nowhere more so than in Limerick, best highlighted by the comic establishment of what can only be the world’s only cashless bank in Rathkeale,” he declared.

“Since being bailed out, AIB has fixated on decreasing costs through staff cuts and branch closures. Staff numbers were cut by 1,200 at between 2016 and 2020, yet the wage bill at the bank ballooned by €30 million over the same period, illustrative of the bank’s top brass now receiving higher salaries. This raises serious questions around justification for branch closures across Limerick.

“Many viable branches in Limerick were closed to cynically boost profits for their own self-serving agenda, devoid of consideration to people and businesses in those communities. And, despite the bank’s strategy, the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, as the largest shareholder, has remained shamefully silent. Limerick’s Government TDs too have kept their lips stitched on the matter.

“Towns and rural communities weaken as branches close. Online banking is no substitute for a full-service bank branch.

“The Finance Minister has shown that he cannot be trusted to protect the public interest, as he is more aligned with the interests of bankers than ordinary people.”

When contacted by the Limerick Post, a spokesperson for the Department of Finance explained that it is government policy to reduce the State’s shareholding in the banks and use the proceeds from any disposals for more productive purposes.

“Notwithstanding the fact that the State is the largest shareholder, the Minister and the Government cannot and do not exercise any influence over the day-to-day business decisions of AIB. Any reduction in this shareholding does not change this position.”