4 Mar 2019, 18.00
On Wednesday, March 6, at 10 a.m., the Joint Committee on Rural and Community Development will explore how banks manage abandoned safety deposits dating back to the 19th century.
Scheduled witnesses include Jim Connolly, an advocate for identifying what artefacts, memorabilia and treasures may exist inside abandoned safekeeping boxes. Officials from the Department of Rural and Community Development, and the Department of Finance, also will address the meeting.
“Irish banks today retain many thousands of safety deposits with no legally binding rules in place requiring those banks to identify or contact the beneficial owners. The Committee will consider the merits of potential legislative and regulatory remedies to balance the interests of consumer protection, the right to private property, the common good and other relevant issues that arise,” said Committee Chairman Joe Carey TD.
“All Irish banks stopped taking new safety deposits many years ago, and some banks since have appealed to owners to collect their items and, when no response comes, to move unclaimed contents from branches to archives. This raises important questions: What steps should banks be required to take to track down rightful owners? And if none can be identified, what ultimately should happen to these items?” Deputy Carey said.
“The Dormant Accounts Act 2001 allows long-unclaimed funds to be transferred to the NTMA-managed Dormant Accounts Fund for investment in social supports by the Department of Rural and Community Development,” Deputy Carey said. “But this arrangement applies only for cash on deposit and life insurance policies. Crucially, in the event that a rightful owner of that cash is later identified, even decades later, they can apply for reimbursement.
“No such straightforward recuperation would exist in the case of many contents of safety deposit boxes and envelopes that, once opened and inspected, could potentially face transfer to State ownership or sale at auction,” he said. “This is just one of many complex issues that the Committee will discuss with key stakeholders on Wednesday. The Committee hopes its work will inspire the drafting of a Bill proposing new legal requirements on how banks and the State manage these deposits.”
The meeting in Committee Room 4 can be viewed live here.
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