Sale of First Trust “underlines permanence of the border”

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.”

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  • Clutching at straws

  • TheHorse

    Sounds logical has this geezer been hanging around with Nelson McCausland.

  • Cynic

    What a shame he wasn’t speaking in Ulster Scots?

  • Glencoppagagh

    I think he was trying to make the point that AIB seems to consider First Trust to be one of the ‘overseas’ operations, along with its stake in a Polish bank, that it wants/needs to sell.
    Just a hint of partitionism there, I think.

  • Dec

    No doubt this must come to a huge relief to Laird who presumably had thought, since 1991, that Irish re-unification was inevitable after TSB Northern Ireland merged with AIB .

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    There are many who think that the House of “Lords” actually has a very high quality of Debate than the House of Commons.
    On the other hand……theres Laird (sic) Laird

  • HeinzGuderian


    A Notion Once Again,huh ?? :O)

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    For once Laird may have a point. On the other hand, having been an AIB employee in the past, they are a self-serving shower who would sell their own granny to boost the management pension fund. So I wouldn’t read too much into it.

  • slug

    AIB was born in the 1960s of a merger of three other banks, one was called the Royal Bank, the others the Provincial and the Munster bank .

    Ironically (perhaps) the Royal Bank divested its NI business at the time of post partition and so it Royal Bank was a ROI-only bank.

    The Provincial Bank operated in NI.

    These merged in 1966 to form AIB.

    Neither the AIB nor the Provincial Bank (nor the Royal Bank I suspect!) had a “nationalist ethos” at all. I don’t remember anything remotely nationalist about it.

    That is it now demerging is in a sense just a return to a pre 1970s situation for the AIB.

  • Iam Yue

    One has to wonder whether Laird has looked at the list of significant shareholders in UTV and where they are based??

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I know its pedantic but if I dont say it someone else will. Actually the Munster Bank ceased sometime in the late 19th century. The Munster & Leinster Bank was the third bank.
    I think its main Belfast bank was at the corner of Falls Road/Waterford Street and is now home to a GAA club of ill repute…the name of which will not pass my lips.
    The M&L did have a reputation as a Catholic Bank…..the branch in question had a lot of accounts from Catholic parishes, gaa clubs, etc

  • slug

    I am happy to accept corrections-I didn’t know so much about the M&L.

    Did you know you are more likely to get a divorce than to change banks?

    Basically the Provincial branches when they became AIBs simply inherited their customers and everyones bank account number etc remained the same.

    So, since Provincial did not have “a nationalist ethos” in my town before the merger, neither did it have after the merger. There were two AIB branches for a while, perhaps the other was an M&L, then eventually they closed down the one that was smaller.

  • Cormac Mac Art

    Profits come before people. This is the nature of every institution, be it a bank or a state.

    I would’nt read quite as much into it as did Laird (who seems to imagne an Irish conspiracy to take NI), but he is spot on concerning the permanece of the border. Why should the Irish want a united Ireland when we already have a united country?

  • Mack

    Unlikely they think of the north as ‘overseas’ – a different state within the EU certainly. Non-core? To a degree yes.

    Any bank operating north and south has to have two separate operations in each duristiction – as anyone who has ever tried to transfer money between accounts with the same feckin’ bank will tell you.

    Desperate times call for desperate measures – but the alternative – that AIB keep First Trust and sell off it’s Southern Irish business strikes me as unrealistic.

    The entire argument from Lord Laird is just another manifestation of the mental obsession most northerners share (regardless of community) about NI’s constituitional status, rather than any deep insight.

  • Mack

    Profits come before people. This is the nature of every institution, be it a bank or a state.

    I disagree – people have to come before profits for 90%+ of businesses and instituitions. Normally only monopolies -or cartels – can afford to put profits above people.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I was at a meeting on flouridation in water supply when a DUP local politician brought up the subject of BALLYGOWAN Water and the conspiracy to introduce it into “Ulster” (sic).
    Sounds like Im making it up but it was actually worth listening to him just to watch the reaction of the people at the Top Table.

  • Cormac Mac Art

    Say on!

  • Joe

    Once again a unionist old schooler exposing the frailty of the pro-union mindset by an apparent need to find proof, anywhere, that the union is in fact safe.

    And by the very doing, proves that it can’t be.

  • sdlp Man

    Has anyone told this looper Laird that the Republic’s ESB is in pole position to take over Northern Ireland Electricity? Which would be ironic given NIE’s totally disreputable behaviour-or, more precisely, one of their spokesmen- at the time of the 1974 strike which helped bring down the Sunnongdale Executive?

    Does he also realise that the NI agri-business sector, one of the few productive sectors we have left, is significantly in the hands of RoI co-operatives?

    The man is a clown. Think of his antics taking a taxi to Dublin in a kilt (“security reasons”) during his laughable chairmanship of the Ulster Scots Agency or demanding that Irish placenames in the Republic be translated into “Ulster Scots”.

    I’d heard he’d got a heart attack (probably from eating too many Ulster fries) and I’d kinda hoped we’d heard the last of the idiot

  • apparently all the placenames down there are translated into Gaelic so another line would hardly make much difference.

    Generally regarding the story I’m unaware of any national champions on whatever side other than the INM takeover of the BellyLaugh, which seems to have changed the editorial stance of the paper from moderate unionist to well, anti-moderate unionist.

  • jtwo

    It is by no means a sure thing that AIB will be able to shift FT at a price that makes sense.

  • Take it you’re not a fan of Friel?

  • Scamallach

    Blah blah blah cormac. Get a new topic of conversation or take yourself off. You already flogged this to death on another thread.

  • Cormac Mac Art

    If you don’t like what I say, then please don’t reply to my posts.

  • Cormac Mac Art

    If you don’t like what I say, then please don’t reply to my posts.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Laird spouting pure bollocks, as usual. AIB is an institution in serious trouble, which is unlikely to last as an independent entity itself for much longer. It has divested itself of several of its overseas units in recent years, including the Polish unit which was a cash cow for the bank in recent years, and the American M&T holding which was itself a byproduct of it’s divesting from Allfirst/First Maryland. Only a mad attention-seeking parrot looking for controversy could possibly see a bank selling off it’s holdings in a desperate bid to stay afloat as some kind of cross-border attack.

    Another point I’ll make while I’m here is that for a long time, the local NI banks have operated to a very poor standard of service. Interest rates on both deposits and loans, including credit cards, are consistently far poorer value than those offered by the larger mainland banks. Northern Bank’s online banking system is ridiculously complicated and overspecified – requiring a secure keypad it is by far the most user-unfriendly for online functions. I went in to a First Trust branch once about ten years ago to be greated by a staffer leaning back on his chair with both feet up on the reception front desk.

    As someone has already pointed out, this situation arises because people are very averse to changing their bank. I had someone say to me recently that they had negotiated a special mortgage deal with their local friendly bank manager who they knew from way back. Anyone who knows how banks operate internally knows that this is not possible; the bank’s lending rate is set by their head office and the determination about who may or may not receive loans is made by their underwriting department, not the local branch manager who has no say whatsoever in the matter other than having the option of refusing business (and commission). I always try to make a point of encouraging everyone I know to shop around – make use of the brokers and online comparison websites and don’t be afraid to switch accounts when there is a good deal to be had.

    These old local institutions are like the old Stewarts and Crazy Prices, charging higher prices than their national counterparts and coining in the cash while smiling sweetly to the punters and going on about having the common touch which comes with local ownership. I’d say the end of these terrible businesses would come about more quickly if the government would do something the daft situation with banknotes.

  • Cormac Mac Art

    Well said, Comrade. One of the best posts I’ve read in a while.

  • RJ

    Are all Unionist this Weird and Parinode
    A Bank what next a McDonalds.
    the Republic had a Slow Move in a United Ireland not to long ago which involved buying a lot of Land in the North, im a Irish Nationalist but even im not Weird when it comes to a English Bank or Company investing in the North that its to keep the Border for god sake unionist really are the Most weird people out there of thinking everybody and everything is out to get them.