Politicians criticise Ulster Bank over crash


ULSTER BANK has been castigated by both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton over its failure to deal with a technology crash which has affected 100,000 Irish customers.

Some 53,000 social welfare payments have been affected by the Ulster Bank’s systems failure, with thousands of customers unable to receive payments over the weekend.

In an attempt to meet customer demands Ulster Bank will open 70 branches today until 3pm, and a further 20 will open tomorrow until 1pm.

Both Enda Kenny and Ms Burton said the debacle would only worsen the already dim view that Irish people have of banks.

Speaking in Scotland after a meeting of the British-Irish Council, Mr Kenny said Ulster Bank’s failure to deal with the three-day IT failure, which has seen customers unable to get cheques lodged to their accounts, “only exacerbates the cynicism” Irish people have for financial institutions.

Ms Burton said she estimated some 30,000 social welfare recipients have been affected by the glitch. Many have been left without money for the weekend. She described herself as being “extremely disappointed” by the delay.

“Given all of the grief that banks have caused to people in Ireland, I really think that the bank needs to address this particular situation with absolute urgency.

“They have to look at the situation of people over the weekend, particularly older people who spend all their social welfare income.

“For some of the people at the top of the banks €100 might not seem a lot, but it is to a pensioner,” she said.

One of those affected, a man named John from Mullingar, said his disability payment “is all I have”. The man, who would not give his surname, said he only found out about the computer glitch from a news report yesterday morning.

“I have been with the bank for years and they have my contact details, but they haven’t even sent out a text.

“I am only one person – how many others are out there like me?”

The breakdown has meant that customers who go into branches cannot access their accounts because the bank officials cannot access them either.

However, some customers have been advanced payments based on their social welfare entitlements or their salaries.

Sean Kearns from Sligo was almost left without a way to get to work and back when he discovered he could not withdraw money from a cash machine.

“It told me I had insufficient funds as my wages were unable to come through.

“It costs me €100 to get to work for a tank of petrol as I work near Dublin, so it would be impossible for me to go home and get to work Monday.”

Some 38,000 HSE employees who are paid through Ulster Bank can get an advance of up to €500.

The bank has blamed its parent, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS Group), for the difficulties.

RBS said it had fixed the technology problem, but it would be Monday before the backlog of transactions was sufficiently dealt with.

In a statement Ulster Bank apologised “unreservedly” to customers.

“We appreciate that this is having a significant impact on many of our customers and customers of other banks,” it said in a statement.

“Customers who have incurred fees or charges as a result of this issue will be fully refunded in due course.”