Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Sale of Banks.

Michael Ahern

Ceist:

45 Mr. M. Ahern asked the Minister for Finance the plans, if any, he has regarding a possible sale of either, or both, the ICC and ACC. [16750/96]

The future development of ICC and ACC banks is being considered in the context of proposals concerning the restructuring of the State banking sector. In this regard, all the options available to the Government continue to be examined by me and a number of my colleagues in Government, with a view to determining the most effective way of making the banking market more vibrant and competitive.

This is a delicate and complex matter requiring careful and due consideration and it is essential that the interests of all stakeholders are taken into account in any proposals which may be agreed by the Government. One must also have regard to the nature of the individual institutions, their particular customer markets, the needs of the whole community in its broadest sense and developments in the EU.

Our examination of the matter is making progress and I hope soon to be in a position to make a proposal to the Government. Pending the Government's consideration of this matter it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further.

The reply the Minister gave is effectively the same as that he gave in April 1995, June 1995 and May 1996. Does he agree with the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, that the third banking force has been funked by the Government because the Coalition parties could not agree on the matter? It is evident that they still cannot agree on a third banking force. This is the first chink in the Government's armour and many more will appear as the days go on.

I hesitate to engage Deputy Ahern from Cork North East — one must distinguish between the different Deputy Aherns — in such a manifestly political debate, but I draw his attention to a fact which possibly has not come to his observation, that both banks are behaving and performing exceptionally well. They reflect a vibrant market and service it. The ACC in particular has expanded from its narrow customer base to a much wider base and ICC is still the driving bank for the small and medium-sized enterprise sector.

I have a very good recollection of a third force.

Deputy Rabbitte is the third force.

In view of the totally transformed operational and performance circumstances in which these two State banks now find themselves, in marked contrast to the time when another Deputy Ahern had responsibility for them, we are taking longer than would otherwise be normal to review their best options for the future.