Working in the Community, Working for the Community

Deputy Healy questions the Tánaiste with regard to Bank of Ireland, Wilber Ross and his associates blatantly ripping off the Irish public.

Deputy Healy asks if Bank of Ireland fail the ECB stress tests next year will Wilber Ross and his associates be forced to recapitalise the bank or will the Irish people be forced to do as they have in the past?

And finally Deputy Healy asked if the Tánaiste would not agree that the only solution that protects the citizens of this country when recapitalisation is required is nationalisation.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
In April 2013, on Bloomberg TV, Wilbur Ross, the American vulture capitalist, described Bank of Ireland as his best investment anywhere in the world during the financial crisis. In July 2011 the Government sold State shares in Bank of Ireland to a consortium of North American vulture capitalists for €1.123 billion. The effect of the sale is that the State now owns 15% of Bank of Ireland’s shares at a net cost of €4 billion, while these vulture capitalists own 37% at a cost of €1.123 billion. The fire sale of Bank of Ireland shares has handed Wilbur Ross and his wealthy associates a capital gain of €2 billion. No wonder he was celebrating on television. They are onto a sure winner in the future. The value of Bank of Ireland is determined by Government support, including the bailout. Crucially, Government policy designates Bank of Ireland as a pillar bank. The lack of competition in the market, with ACC and Danske Bank recently having left and the future of Ulster Bank up in the air, and guaranteed Government support through pillar status are a shareholder’s dream. The pillar banks are now free to rip off customers, small businesses and distressed mortgage holders. In today’s Irish Independent Charlie Weston tells us that the introduction of, and increase in, bank fees and charges will take a further €260 a year from families and €270 million out of household finances in the economy. This is the same bank that is sending letters to distressed mortgage holders, giving them the options of voluntary sale, voluntary repossession or eviction. It is absolutely disgraceful. Is the Government not ashamed of its role in allowing the people to be blatantly ripped off by Bank of Ireland, Wilbur Ross and his associates? If Bank of Ireland fails the ECB stress tests next year, will Wilbur Ross and his friends be forced to recapitalise the bank or will the people be forced to do the same as they have done in the past? Does the Tánaiste agree that the only solution that will protect the citizens of the country when recapitalisation is required is nationalisation?

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
No economy can function without a banking system and banks. When the Government took office at the beginning of 2011, the banks in the country were on the point of collapse. People in this country were taking their money out of the banks and small depositors were crossing the Border to move their money out of Irish banks to put it elsewhere. The Government had to stabilise the banking system in its early stages in office. That is why we moved very quickly at an early stage to the reorganisation of the banking system with pillar banks. The banking system and the country have now stabilised and Bank of Ireland has been able to raise funds and capital on the open markets.
Progress is being made across our banking system. That was a necessary part of the strategy we had to pursue in order to get the country out of the incredible economic hole into which it had been put and which we inherited. As it happens, we are now at the point where we are about to exit the bailout. We are looking at an economy which is growing again, although the growth is modest. We are seeing employment being created in the country at the rate of about 3,000 new jobs per month. We would like to see that accelerated. What we must aim to achieve, now that we have stabilised the banking situation and stabilised what has happened in our public finances, is to drive on to create the jobs, attract the investment, see our economy grow at a faster rate and ensure that the people of this country have jobs, a secure future, a decent income and have decent quality public services. That is our aim and it is what will happen. Stabilising the banking system was necessary and this Government has achieved that. We now have to drive on to get economic growth and jobs and the increased prosperity that will come from a growing economy.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
I have some specific questions relating to the sale of the Government’s bank shares. Is the Tánaiste satisfied that the sale of these State shares to these vulture capitalists was above board and transparent? Is he satisfied with a situation where a senior public servant involved in the sale process and who continued to deal on behalf of the State with banks, including Bank of Ireland, was enabled to take up a very senior post in Bank of Ireland, that post being chief executive, corporate and treasury, Bank of Ireland Group?

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
The Deputy cannot make allegations here—–

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
I am not making any allegations. It is a fact. I ask the Tánaiste if the promised review of this situation has taken place and what has been the outcome of that review. He promised a review.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
I am satisfied that the sale of the shares was above board and was transparent. At the period of time involved there was very considerable welcome that the State was able to sell shares in Bank of Ireland. I will not respond to allegations about individuals—–

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
I did not make any allegations.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
The Deputy did make allegations.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
What about my second question?

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
I am answering the question. I am satisfied that the sale of the shares was above board and was transparent. I am also satisfied that the actions taken by the Government to bring stability to our banking system has been one of the foundation stones on which the recovery of this country’s economy has been built. I wish it were different; I wish we did not have the crisis in the banking system that we inherited and I am satisfied—–

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Is he satisfied with the role of a senior public servant?

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
I will not respond to allegations the Deputy is making about individuals who are outside of the House. If the Deputy wishes to make an allegation—–

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
The Deputy should stop that innuendo and side of the mouth allegations about people who are not in the House. If he wants to make an allegation about an individual, he should make the allegation and if he is sure enough, he should make it outside the House.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
The Government said there would be a review.

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
I wish to let it be known to the House that it is a long-standing ruling of the Chair that Members should not comment on or criticise a person outside the House or an official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable as that person is defenceless against accusations made under privilege of this House. I ask all Members to please note.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: