I understand that the Central Bank has met representatives of the Irish banking sector to discuss the implications which will arise for the Irish banking industry from the introduction of the single currency. There are a number of issues which need to be considered by the Irish banking industry, including loss of income from foreign exchange and related risk management activities and increased competition at European level. Such losses would of course represent gains for bank customers and the economy as a whole and should be compensated for, to some extent at least, by gains for the banking industry if a larger level of economic activity under Economic and Monetary Union resulted in greater demand for other banking services.
As I indicated to the Deputy recently, options in relation to the State banking sector are currently being examined. Until the Government has considered and decided on the options, it would be wrong of me to make detailed statements about the role of any particular financial institution. The Deputy is, of course, correct in focusing on the role of new technology because technological innovation has been one of the main forces driving the rapid pace of change in banking in recent years. Together with the progressive dismantling of barriers to the movement of capital, new technology has revolutionised the industry. Any proposals which the Government may bring forward will inevitably have to reckon with this factor.