Lenihan roasts AIB over lending
Published 01/08/2010 | 05:00
THE relationship between the Government and Ireland's largest retail bank, AIB, has deteriorated sharply because of the growing belief among senior ministers that the bank -- which has already received €3.5bn of taxpayers' money -- is not releasing sufficient credit to Irish businesses.
In the wake of sustained complaints from businesses, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is said to have told AIB executives last week that they are "more interested in your shareholders than in your customers, the people or the Government".
Although the Government is "not yet at war with the bank", senior figures in the Government said strong exchanges between it and the bank were "becoming increasingly frequent".
The increasing unhappiness with the banks -- AIB in particular -- reached a head in a dramatic encounter last Monday when Mr Lenihan told AIB chiefs in the clearest of terms that their behaviour was "unacceptable to the Government".
"The chairman, Dan O'Connor, and managing director Colm Doherty "got a right good bollocking -- they weren't at all pleased," revealed a source.
After being left to wait for 90 minutes because the cabinet meeting over-ran, the two men then got "a roasting" from the Mr Lenihan.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, a source close to the Cabinet said: "It was a dramatic performance, pure Lenihan, that left AIB in no doubt as to who the bad bank is in their [the Government's] eyes."
Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe backed the Finance Minister, vowing: "We are not going to let the banks off on this.
"The Government has reached the end of its tether and it is time for our banks to realise they must learn to serve society, as well as their shareholders."