Cowen Reassures As Opposition Panics Over Bank Withdrawal

The Taoiseach has stepped in to reassure Halifax customers after the bank announced this morning it was pulling out of the Irish market.

Meanwhile however, the Opposition party Fine Gael have been prompted to ask if other banks are following the move.

Brian Cowen said today he was given assurances by Bank of Scotland (Ireland) - who own Halifax - that mortgage and account holders would not be affected by the bank’s decision to close its Irish retail arm.

The bank, which is in turn owned by the UK bank Lloyds, announced today it is to close its 44 Halifax branches following a review that concluded Halifax was too small to survive in the Irish market as a result of the financial crisis and the recession.

The move is expected to see 750 job losses, including 400 from across the nationwide Halifax branch network, 220 jobs at a specialist finance unit in the head office on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin and 130 posts at its customer service centre in Dundalk.

Mr Cowen told the Dáil today he regretted the decision to cut the 750 jobs but insisted the bank will maintain a presence in Ireland.

"I have been assured that all customers of Bank of Scotland (Ireland) will be looked after and will not be disadvantaged by the changes," Mr Cowen said.

"Bank of Scotland (Ireland) will continue to have a presence in Ireland, obviously with 750 of the 1,600 jobs presently gainfully employed there no longer part of the operation after July."

In contrast, Fine Gael Enterprise Spokesman Leo Varadkar challenged the Government to state whether they have had any indication from other international banks operating in Ireland that they are considering withdrawing from the Irish market.

Deputy Varadkar was speaking after former Bank of Ireland CEO Michael Soden raised fears about the future of National Irish Bank, owned by the Danish operation Danske Bank, and ACC Bank, which is owned by Rabo Bank of the Netherlands.

"The loss of 760 jobs in Halifax has sent shockwaves through the financial sector and shattered hopes of a turnaround in Ireland’s unemployment crisis," Mr Varadkar said.

He added: "We need to know whether the Government or Regulator have had any contact or indication from either of the other two international banks that their Irish retail operations are in jeopardy, and whether there is any danger they will withdraw from the Irish market."


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