Friday 15 November 2019

In the bank

• As it appears that Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht Minister, Jimmy Deenihan, is no longer actively pursuing the return to the State of the former parliament building at College Green owned by Bank of Ireland, we need to consider the possibility that our current fiscal situation may lead to this historic building passing out of Irish ownership. If, as seems probable, the ECB introduces a policy of direct bank recapitalisation -- retroactively applicable to Ireland -- the Government would have to be reimbursed for the €5bn it has invested in Bank of Ireland.

While clearly desirable, any such reimbursement must inevitably lead to the transfer of the government stake in Bank of Ireland to the ECB, which would naturally wish to recoup its investment and would likely pursue this much more aggressively than the Government has done so far.

The College Green building is one of Bank of Ireland's most valuable assets and the ECB is unlikely to have any qualms about pushing for its sale, leaving the Government in a position where it would either have to buy it on the open market or let it pass into private ownership, with possible implications for public access.

Given the vast amounts of public money currently shoring up Bank of Ireland, the Government's laissez-faire approach is difficult to fathom. There is a limited window of opportunity to secure the future of one of our most iconic buildings. The Government enjoys considerable leverage over Bank of Ireland, which it should now use to the full.

M Conneally
Address with Editor

Irish Independent

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