On 26 January 2017, Alison Loveday, the Chief Executive of berg attended the Joint Committee on finance, public expenditure and re-form, and Taoiseach in Dublin. The meeting in full is available to view on Parliament TV here, and below Alison describes proceedings.
This committee, chaired by Deputy John McGuinness TD was meeting as part of its examination of the banking sector and the business of banking. The committee has recently discussed a broad range of operational matters with the pillar banks and the central Bank of Ireland and was seeking to glean a business insight into the functioning of the banking sector and to discuss the main issues affecting businesses today in their interaction with banks.
Alison was present to support Jackie Lavin formally of Glencullen Holdings (in receivership), in her capacity as spokesperson for the Ulster Bank GRG Irish business action group. This group already has approximately 60 businesses, who together accuse Ulster Bank/GRG of deliberately targeting and shutting down viable businesses in a “property grab strategy”. Jackie spoke passionately about the experiences of the group and first-hand from her dealings with Ulster bank, the receivers and latterly the vulture funds.
Seamus Ó Muilleaneoir was present to promote the creation of public banks, based on the German model. He emphasised the need for small businesses to be given not simply credit but also support and expertise and suggested a tiered approach to credit being adopted, including making full use of the credit Unions and Post Office system.
Jerry Beades appeared on behalf of the Friends of Irish Banking. He commented on a whole range of issues including conflicts of the judiciary, the role of vulture funds, repossessions and what he described as the “no man’s land” of insolvency and receiverships.
After hearing statements from each of the representatives and a period of questioning, the chairman summed up by stating that they would continue to keep these issues on the agenda, until they saw some action taken – particularly by the Central Bank. They had already agreed to meet with them on a quarterly basis and the next such meeting will take place in April 2017.
He noted that when Ulster Bank had appeared before the committee in December 2016 they had committed to confirm exactly how many businesses had returned from GRG into normal banking. They had not done so. The response had simply said “approximately one hundred”. They will push for the actual number.
He commented that he and members of the committee had all heard how businesses had been broken and individuals experienced extreme hardship, at the hands of the banks. Although the figures might be different across various businesses, the story and treatment were the same. This applies not simply to GRG and Ulster Bank but right across the banking sector. He said that “this house” would be put to shame, because they had had the opportunity to introduce legislation, but had failed to do so. Notwithstanding ,he reinforced that he believed there was another way of doing business and that they would continue to pursue these issues and report to the Minister in due course.
There did appear to be a real appreciation of the issues and a willingness to take action – only time will tell.
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