Limerick TD angry over refusal to debate AIB shareholding

Limerick Independent TD Richard O'Donoghue

A REQUEST by County Limerick TD Richard O’Donoghue to have an urgent debate on the proposed part sell-off by the State of its shareholding in AIB has been blocked.

The Rural Ireland TD told the Limerick Post that the Dáil’s Business Committee has turned down his application for this to happen on the return to Leinster House this week. He described the move as “astonishing and peculiar but not surprising”.

“It is bizarre as to why Government and opposition TDs on the Business Committee would not support a full Dáil debate,” he said.

“Pushing this issue on to the Finance Committee dilutes the seriousness of these matters and gives the Government cover. The public deserve transparency and input. Our banking concerns must be heard and debated in the Dáil rather than being side-lined to a committee controlled by the Government.”

Deputy O’Donoghue warned that this is not the end of the matter, which is being pursued rigorously by himself and his colleagues in the Rural Independent Group.

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“Many aspects of this sell-off require scrutiny, not least whether the best interests of taxpayers are being served by a bank which was bailed out at a cost of over €20 billion. Yet, is allowed by the Government to give taxpayers the two fingers, as it engages in hollowing out Irish retail banking, while putting profits before social obligations.

“The failure of the Government to protect the public interest means that AIB alone was allowed to close 75 branches across the State, many of which were in Limerick, since being bailed out. In fact, the bank cynically used the bailout capital to restructure itself away from retail banking and more into the shadow investment banking side.”

Deputy O’Donoghue also claims that Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe cannot be trusted to protect the public interest when it comes to banking matters.

“He is more aligned with the interests of bankers than ordinary people. After all, he reduced the bank levy by €75 million from this year and continues to give all profitable banks a tax break, despite all Irish banks fleecing customers with the highest banking charges and interest rates within the EU.

“Limerick taxpayers shovelled in a billion euro as part of the AIB bailout, and in effect are four per cent shareholders and are deserving of a public airing on the matter. I won’t rest easy until this happens,” he concluded.

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.”