TWO major banks left their customers without access to their money when they were hit by separate IT system collapses.
Branch staff in AIB and Permanent TSB were unable to access customer accounts, and customers could not use telephone and internet banking.
Some consumers could not use debit cards in shops.
The separate systems crashes yesterday prompted fears of a repeat of the debacle that left Ulster Bank paralysed for a month last summer.
The two bailed-out banks insisted they are not skimping on their spending on computer systems.
The IT breakdowns occurred as branches opened after being closed for four days over Easter.
The outage coincided with the payment into parents' accounts of child benefit money.
And for Permanent TSB, the issue came the day it launched a new fee-free bank account.
Both AIB and Permanent TSB are taxpayer-owned after they had to be rescued by the State to save them from going under.
A spokesman for Permanent TSB admitted that its 80 branches were affected, and there was no online banking and telephone banking for a period. But he maintained that its automated teller machines (ATMs) continued to work.
The spokesman denied the IT collapse was due to a lack of investment in systems. He apologised to customers.
"This sort of thing happens from time to time. It is rare, but we have a team ready to respond quickly. It is not due to a lack of investment," he added.
AIB suffered from a collapse of its online and telephone banking, while its branches were not able to get access to customer accounts. This meant people couldn't withdraw or deposit money in branches.
Customers who contacted this newspaper said they were also unable to access their funds through ATM machines, and unable to make payments with debit cards in shops.
AIB insisted its systems were back within an hour.
Consumers' Association Chief Executive Dermott Jewell called on the Central Bank to monitor the banks more closely.
"This requires close monitoring by the Cental Bank as it has the potential to bring the country to a halt," he said.
A spokesperson for the Central Bank said it was aware of issues with IT systems.
"We understand that issues have been resolved and we will monitor the situation to ensure that no customer is disadvantaged," she said.
She added that the Central Bank expects all firms to have adequate systems and controls in place and where problems impacting customers arise they should be rectified urgently.
Ulster Bank was forced to pay compensation and refund out-of-pocket expenses for customers after it suffered an IT collapse last summer.
And last month the British-owned bank saw its mobile banking system go down.
In the past few days some customers of credit card company MBNA, now called AvantCard, have been unable to use their cards due to IT problems.