Unionist peer, Baron Laird of Artigarvan used the House of Lord’s debate of the Queen’s speech to address AIB’s sale of First Trust bank, its northern subsidiary last Thursday.
The life peer told the House of Lords that the sale was a lesson to unionists that not only underlined the permanence of the border, but proved that “when times are tough, how quickly the Irish are willing to abandon anything in Northern Ireland”;
“To many, the Dublin-based AIB was regarded as an Irish nationalist bank. Now, because of the financial mess that AIB has created for itself, it has placed First Trust up for sale.
For many unionists, this is very interesting. It is increasingly clear that the Irish business establishment accepts the concept of the Belfast agreement of 1998 by underlining that there are two separate countries with their own national identities and economic systems on the island of Ireland.
AIB proposes to confine itself to the Irish Republic and to be rid of its United Kingdom connections, even on the island. Of further interest to unionists is that the move underlines the permanence of the border. It also shows, when times are tough, how quickly the Irish are willing to abandon anything in Northern Ireland. AIB is a lesson to unionists.”
Laird also told the House;
“The interests of its Northern Ireland customers, its staff and its pensioners must be protected… I ask the Government to ensure that whatever body scrutinises the banking sector in the future, First Trust customers and their interests are monitored. It is also vital that its existing staff and pensioners, of whom I am not one, have their rights and entitlements protected. This is an issue in which I propose to take a careful interest and will, no doubt, return to many times in the future.”