Donohoe has no formal power to prevent Ulster Bank loan sell-off

Minister meets union amid speculation over bank’s operation in Republic

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has told the Financial Services Union that he has no formal power to prevent the potential sale of Ulster Bank's loan book in the Republic.

In a meeting with the union on Monday, which both sides described as productive, Mr Donohoe is understood to have told union officials that he had no formal role in the commercial decisions of Ulster Bank or NatWest and that all decisions were matters for the board and management of the bank and its parent company.

NatWest is reported to be considering the sale of Ulster Bank's €20.5 billion loan book in the Republic to US debt firm Cerberus. The move could see the wind-down of Ulster Bank's operation here with the potential loss of 2,700 staff and the closure of its 88 branches.


Mr Donohoe told the union he had held talks with Ulster Bank representatives in October and that his expectation was that staff would be consulted and keep informed of developments.


The potential sale of Bank of Ireland's unit in Northern Ireland, AIB job losses and an overhaul of the consumer protection code were also said to have been discussed at the meeting.

The union welcomed the Minister’s ongoing commitment to the discussions.

The banking sector here is facing into an uncertain period with loan losses related to the Covid-19 pandemic expected to accelerate, Brexit and the ongoing low interest rate environment.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times