Paschal Donohoe officials were aware of AIB’s plan to make 70 branches cashless four days before him

Finance Ministry officials waited four days to tell Paschal Donohoe that AIB was closing treasury services at 70 branches – a decision the bank later reversed after significant public and political backlash.

he finance minister was only told of AIB’s plan hours before it was publicly announced by the bank last Tuesday morning, although an official in his department was briefed on the details the previous Friday July 15. , and that the matter also be discussed at the department’s board meeting last Monday.

Last night its spokesman said officials had ‘underestimated the potential reaction’ to AIB’s proposal and viewed plans to expand banking services with An Post as ‘positive for customers’. The spokesperson said: “The Minister was briefed on the AIB plan on Tuesday. He did not know in advance.

The department’s decision not to brief the minister for several days on AIB’s plans was last night called ‘scandalous’ by Oireachtas finance committee chairman John McGuinness. “They have shown total disregard for their own minister, a minister who still has a large stake in the bank,” Fianna Fáil TD said.

AIB canceled the plan to cut cash services at 70 of its 170 branches last Thursday after Taoiseach Micheál Martin intervened while he was in business with the government in Asia, and said it should “consider to be considered”.

Now Mr McGuinness has confirmed his intention to hold committee hearings in September on the AIB controversy and the future of the banking sector in Ireland.

“Did they give up on the plan for a while or did they give up on it for good? We don’t know,” he said. “It’s outrageous and outrageous that the banks behave the way they behave.”

A finance ministry spokesperson confirmed that a ministry official was briefed by AIB on Friday July 15 on details of the bank’s plans to shut down treasury services at branches across the country. The proposals were also discussed at the department’s weekly executive board meeting last Monday.

But Mr Donohoe, who is chairman of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers and was in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and London between Monday and Wednesday last week, was not told until Tuesday morning the bank announcing the move later that morning.

Sinn Féin TD Mairéad Farrell said the finance committee needed to meet urgently to discuss the ‘damning’ revelations the finance ministry knew days before the decision became public ‘and did nothing’.

Another committee member, Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan, said officials should have brought the matter to Mr Donohoe’s attention “as soon as possible”. But, he added: “Regardless of this delay, the fault lies with AIB for taking a rash and ill-judged position. It would have been better if they had told him immediately, but the AIB is responsible for blinding the political system.

When questioned, Mr Donohoe’s spokesman said the minister had confidence in AIB’s chief executive, Colin Hunt.

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