Shane Ross


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The Most Vulnerable People Suffer from Bank Abuses

Posted on: February 12th, 2004

I am tired of hearing the Revenue Commissioners will prosecute hundreds of small individuals and then tell the Oireachtas committee they will do nothing about the banks. In some cases, the individuals concerned were traduced into this by people in the banks. The only penalty that the banks or those working for them have paid in the case of tax evasion through bogus non-resident accounts is a payment of €30 million in the case of Bank of Ireland and somewhat more in the case of AIB. They have paid with other people’s money for offences committed by their staff. This is not acceptable.

To me, what has happened regarding the banks and the ECB cut is simply theft. It is subterfuge, but it is theft. It was obvious to everyone last Thursday and Friday that when, as usual, no announcement was made by the banks, they were intending to maintain the loan rate. They were wondering how much they could keep and what they could get away with.

I am convinced that there is a cartel operating, that telephone calls are being made between banks, and that they agree on rates and on what action they should take. At this stage they hardly need to make telephone calls, because they can move in tandem. They understand each other and their language so well. One day it is one person’s turn, another day it is another’s. This crucifies the consumer, who is helpless in the situation, as illustrated in the tale Senator O’Toole told about his grandmother. The most vulnerable people are the people who suffer the most in this situation.

Though bankers try to confuse us, banking is not a sophisticated business. It is a matter of merely making a margin. The banks are not passing on the savings. They make most of their money on deposits, paying 0.1% interest while they themselves obtain 1.99% on those deposits. There can be no easier business. It is not very sophisticated. They then confuse us with jargon, with words like competency and capacity, and make it all sound difficult, which it is not.

The cuts made by the Irish banking institutions should have been greater, because the rate cuts have not been passed on in full for several years. Far from its being difficult for the institutions when ECB rate cuts are made, they are making money from them. They have been widening their margins on mortgages and lending during this period.