I propose to take Questions Nos. 34 and 41 together.
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 in 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. Therefore, I will not comment or speculate on possible outcomes as there is no basis for such speculation available to me and any comment I might make could be open to misinterpretation. As the Deputy has just done, however, I want to acknowledge that news of this review is, of course, unsettling for all who could be affected by it, especially for the staff and the customers and communities who depend on this branch network. I expect Ulster Bank to keep all its stakeholders, especially its staff and customers, fully informed about any developments in the review and to engage promptly with them in relation to any proposals or decisions that result from the review.
The continued presence of a viable and active Ulster Bank in the Irish market has been an important dimension of how banking has been organised and supplied in Ireland over many years. Ulster Bank is a significant employer and it has 88 branches across our country. It is also important in terms of providing competition in the Irish retail banking market. The bank will have to keep the Central Bank of Ireland fully informed and comply with its requirements in its decision making process.
I reiterate that I have no role in any review undertaken by a commercial entity but I and my officials will carefully monitor any developments in this area.