Thursday 22 March 2018

Noonan has no concerns over Ulster Bank fate, despite talk of split

Peter Flanagan Luxembourg

FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan has shot back at British plans that could lead to the separation of Ulster Bank from the rest of the bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland, pointing out that Irish taxpayers have put huge amounts of cash into Irish banks lending in Britain.

Speaking on Wednesday evening, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said the UK government may create a bad bank for Royal Bank of Scotland's toxic loans in a manner similar to the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA).

Ulster Bank is a subsidiary of RBS and has received more than £14bn (€16.4bn) in UK taxpayer money as part of the RBS bailout. It is considered a prime target in any plan to reduce the size of RBS ahead of it leaving state hands.

Mr Osborne indicated that some Ulster Bank assets could be among the mix hived off into any NAMA-style bad bank under plans being considered in Britain.

Speaking to reporters in Luxembourg yesterday, Mr Noonan made clear he was not concerned about the fate of Ulster.

Bank of England

"The bank trades on both sides of the Border but is regulated by the Bank of England, not the Central Bank.

"We keep close contact (with British authorities) and we'll see what happens but we don't have a particular concern about it at present," he said.

"The British government put money into the parent bank and Ulster benefited but it should be remembered that AIB and Bank of Ireland trade in the UK and Northern Ireland and the Irish taxpayer has put an awful lot of money into support bank debt in the North and mainland Britain," he claimed.

In Dublin the head of the main bank workers' union at Ulster Bank, Larry Broderick, said he is seeking a meeting with Mr Osborne, as well as Mr Noonan and Ulster Bank chief executive Jim Brown for assurances about the future ownership and operation of Ulster Bank.

The IBOA general secretary said the latest comments in London do nothing to dampen the recent speculation about the future of the bank.

Irish Independent

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