Firstly, I would like to let the Deputy know that I have no statutory role in relation to interest rates. All credit institutions in Ireland, including those in which the State has a shareholding, are independent commercial entities. Interest rates on deposit accounts are a commercial matter for the boards and management of individual banks. Notwithstanding this, I am not aware of any Irish retail banks charging retail depositors negative interest rates.
The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), through State Savings products, offers a wide range of savings products to the general public, including prize bonds and fixed rate savings bonds/certificates. Both short term and long term fixed rate products are offered, with maturities from 3 to 10 years.
The interest rates on offer are competitive and provide good value for the holders of State Savings products. The return for the saver rewards those who hold products to maturity. However, early redemption is also possible. The NTMA keeps these products under review and have recently informed me that they continue to see strong flows into these products.
Credit unions have experienced savings inflows over recent years, which have outpaced loan demand from their members. The savings which a credit union does not lend to its members must be invested while ensuring that such investments do not result in undue risk. At the same time, due to low/negative investment returns, reflective of the current low interest rate environment, credit unions may decide to limit the amount of savings to be invested or in some cases, consider the introduction of fees.
This is a commercial decision for individual credit unions where they are of the view that this will best support the ongoing prudent operation of their credit union for their members.