Government must retain AIB shares and invest profits to improve infrastructure

May 8, 2017

The government should hold on to all its shares in the state-owned bank AIB and invest the substantial dividends in much needed infrastructure, the Social Democrats said today.

The party’s co-leader, Róisín Shortall TD,  said the government’s determination to sell a 25 per cent stake in the nationalised bank defied logic at a time when homelessness rates are at record levels.

Speaking ahead of a Dáil debate on the sale tomorrow, Deputy Shortall said: “AIB is due to pay a dividend of €250million to shareholders.  As things stand, almost all this money will come to the Exchequer because the State owns 99.9 per cent of the rescued bank.

“This is not small change, and it defies logic that the government would pass up an opportunity to continue to receive these substantial dividends on a yearly basis and invest the money in infrastructure.  This kind of funding stream could help us build schools or primary care centres, or it could fund social housing at a time when homelessness rates are at record levels.

“The case for holding onto the shares and investing the dividends makes utter sense, especially as the government advise us that under current accounting rules the proceeds of any sale cannot be used for infrastructure investment, as it is not considered extra money. Because this constraint does not apply to dividends, these could be used to make a real difference to people’s lives.

“Yet in the face of all this, the government is pushing ahead with its plan to sell public assets, while refusing to publish any cost-benefit analysis and putting it before the Dáil for a debate and a vote.

“Stock market investors and the government’s corporate advisers stand to gain from AIB’s flotation in the coming weeks. But the public, whose money was used to rescue the bank, will not feel any benefits.

The Social Democrats have submitted an amendment to today’s motion calling on the government not to proceed with any share sale unless it has majority support in a Dáil vote.