I am aware of the reports that NatWest is engaged in a strategic review of its operations, including those of Ulster Bank Ireland. The Government has no formal role in such a review or any commercial decisions that result as these are a matter for the Board and Management of the Bank and its parent company, NatWest. I understand that the process is ongoing and that no decisions have been made.
I will not comment or speculate on possible outcomes as there is no basis for such speculation, which would be open to misinterpretation.
News of the review is, of course, unsettling for all stakeholders, especially the staff and customers. I expect Ulster Bank to keep all its stakeholders, especially its staff and customers, fully informed about any developments in the review and engage with them in relation to any proposals or decisions that result from the review promptly.
The continued presence of a viable and active Ulster Bank in the Irish market would be the most welcome outcome. Ulster Bank is a significant employer and has 88 branches across the country. Ulster Bank is also important in terms of providing competition in the Irish retail banking market.
The Bank will also have to keep the Central Bank of Ireland fully informed and comply with its requirements in its decision making process. The Deputy should note that the Central Bank's consumer protection framework for all bank customers is comprehensive and covers a very wide range of situations. However, I must reiterate that I have no role in any review undertaken by a commercial entity and I cannot comment or speculate on such a process because it would be inappropriate and I have no basis to do so. My officials will continue to monitor developments.