Monday 19 February 2018

Ignoring the obvious choice

MANAGERS at Permanent TSB will be cock-a-hoop at the news that the Finance Minister sees a future for the lender.

Michael Noonan spelled out his hopes for the bank in a written answer to a question from Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty released last night.

Mr Doherty had sensibly asked whether the State-owned mortgage lender now counted as a so-called "pillar" bank in the minister's vision for a restored financial sector.

No, came the reply, but it has a role all the same in keeping the "big two" honest by providing a modicum of competition in the retail banking sector -- jargon for minding money and lending to the likes of you and me.

Mr Noonan's vision of keeping the nascent AIB-BoI duopoly at bay has merit.

It does seem optimistic, however, to hope that a third State-backed lender can ever really do that, especially a small-scale lender like Permo.

Surely the best hope for banking competition down the line is a restored Ulster Bank?

It's already the third biggest bank, is not owned by taxpayers here and, like the pillar banks, it has all kinds of customers, from retail accounts to corporate clients.

The obvious candidate to be a third force in Irish banking is surely the existing third force in Irish banking, so why then does it never figure in Mr Noonan's rumin-ations on the financial sector?

Irish Independent

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