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Fears over safety at other banks as AIB, NIB hit by 'glitches'

FRESH fears have emerged over the safety of bank computer systems after two more banks experienced technical breakdowns.

National Irish Bank and AIB both experienced worrying -- if minor -- system breakdowns in the past week. And the Central Bank revealed last night that it was now to demand details from all the retail banks on their contingency plans when their IT systems collapse.

The latest problems emerged as Ulster Bank continued to battle to fix its IT problems, which entered its eighth day.

The bank admitted it will be at least the weekend before details on customer accounts are updated -- but banking specialists said it will be the end of next week before it gets through a massive backlog of payments and updates all customer accounts.

It comes as experts warn that other banks are vulnerable to similar problems, which have left 150,000 Ulster Bank customers locked out of their bank accounts.

Pressure was increasing on the Central Bank to probe the systems and outline what supports are in place in AIB, Bank of Ireland, EBS, Permanent TSB and National Irish Bank to deal with major malfunctions. Questions were also continuing to mount for bosses at Ulster Bank over their handling of the crisis.


Thousands of people who are due to receive their monthly salaries on Friday into their Ulster Bank accounts, or whose employer uses the bank to pay wages, are now fearful that the British-owned bank will not be able to process the payments.

Last night, there were calls for the bank to do more to reassure customers that it was getting on top of the problem.

Enterprise Minister Richard Burton, whose responsibilities cover consumer protection, said it was not enough for the bank to open late. He called for it to waive all fees and charges for those who end up overdrawn.

It also emerged that:

• AIB is still helping out Ulster Bank by processing wage payments to consumers on its behalf.

• Business lobby group ISME questioned if other banks were vulnerable to a similar crash.

• Ulster Bank was called on to attend the powerful Oireachtas Finance Committee, along with Central Bank regulators, to explain what happened.

• Labour senator and barrister Lorraine Higgins suggested the bank would be open to legal actions over the fiasco.

• Consumers' Association chairman Michael Kilcoyne questioned why Ulster chief executive Jim Brown had not appeared to explain the issue.

• Thousands have still not been paid because of the debacle.

Banking and computer experts said last night that other banks were vulnerable to similar collapses.

National Irish Bank confirmed that it had a technical problem yesterday that prevented its customers accessing cash.

And AIB has admitted that a technical glitch meant its systems were down for a number of hours between Thursday night and Friday morning.

Both banks insisted the problems were minor and were quickly rectified. But IT security specialist Brian Honan, of BH Consulting, said a similar IT meltdown to the one at Ulster Bank was likely at other banks.

And professor of banking at the UCD Quinn School of Business, Eamonn Walsh, said major computer breakdowns had occurred in banks recently in Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

He said there was a possibility another bank here could have a major IT meltdown as the systems were old.

Asked why Mr Brown had not made statements in public, a spokeswoman said it had drafted in senior executive Chris Sullivan from parent Royal Bank of Scotland to oversee the clear-up and speak publicly.

Irish Independent