Presidential candidate Gavin Duffy says AIB should be retained in State ownership

People do not want an establishment person as president, says Sinn Féin candidate Liadh Ní Riada

Gavin Duffy: he said AIB’s annual profits could produce as much money for spending as is available in the budget. Photograph; Getty Images

Gavin Duffy: he said AIB’s annual profits could produce as much money for spending as is available in the budget. Photograph; Getty Images

 

The Government should retain AIB in State ownership for the foreseeable future because it has become one of its “most valuable cash cows”, presidential candidate Gavin Duffy has said.

Strongly warning against any decision to sell off the bank, which is majority State-owned, Mr Duffy said its annual profits could produce as much money for spending as is available in the budget.

“We have to give consideration to the fact this is a pillar bank we bailed out to the tune of €20 billion. It’s going to be generating profits of €2 billion plus over the next number of years. We will be selling it very cheaply. If we retain it in State ownership, at arm’s length from politicians, it would be producing more than we have in the budget annually.”

Speaking in Newbridge College, Co Kildare, where he went to school, Mr Duffy said he was was fully supportive of the sale of Bank of Ireland, which was the correct decision for the time. However, he said the circumstances were different for AIB.

“If I was talking about nationalising a bank in the 1980s or 1990s you would call me a Sinn Féin supporter. But [then] we were told by the EU we had to nationalise the debt to protect the bond-holders and stop contagion. We did the right thing, and I stand over that. I have not heard the EU say you now have to reprivatise it.”

He said the bank was 70 per cent owned by the Irish people. “The bank is back in business because of the sacrifices that Irish people made.I have not heard anyone in the media question why we are selling the most valuable cash cow in Ireland. We do need some alternative thinking. I feel at the moment we have a cosy consensus in new politics.”

Establishment person

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin candidate Liadh Ní­ Riada, who was canvassing in Galway, said the people did not want an establishment person as president or one that was at a remove from the people.

Also speaking in Galway, President Michael D Higgins intimated he might consider availing of the constitutional provision to make a speech to both Houses of the Oireachtas if elected to a second term.

Speaking to Midlands radio station in Tullamore, Co Offaly, Independent candidate Joan Freeman highlighted the damage to smaller towns and villages caused by rural depopulation. She said people living in the “bubble” of Dublin were not aware of the issues of rural Ireland, and said she would prioritise those communities if elected.