Banks to be grilled over business lending
A Government minister is to summon the country's top bankers to answer accusations they are not lending to viable small businesses, it was revealed today.
Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe said he was calling in senior finance chiefs over claims that firms are being stone-walled after making credit applications.
The Cork TD, who moved to the department in March, accused some bankers of not keeping to their side of the bargain after securing a multibillion-euro state bailout.
"My experience so far in this portfolio is that some bankers are showing scant regard for Irish taxpayers and the Government by not keeping their side of the bargain and lending to viable small medium enterprises," he said.
"It is not acceptable that lip service be paid to Government demands of banks to lend to viable businesses.
"Now is the time to show gratitude to Irish taxpayers for the massive sacrifices they have made in putting Ireland on the road to economic recovery after the arrogance, greed and reckless irresponsibility of our bankers that brought the country to her knees."
The minister is planning to meet owners of small businesses around the country over the next few weeks to hear first-hand accounts of difficulties accessing credit. Bankers and the government-appointed credit reviewer John Trethowan will then be called to meetings in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation.
Mr O'Keeffe said he has been told firms face problems accessing credit both to keep afloat and to expand.
He warned that in return for the Government's recapitalisation plan the banks have a duty to start lending again.
"If that is not happening - and the evidence so far suggests to me that in some cases it is not - then I want to know why," he said.
"It is the least the Irish taxpayer deserves after the forbearance they have shown."
Mr O'Keeffe said he will be closely monitoring proposals from Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland on how they will meet lending targets after securing seven billion euro from the state.