June 18, 2010

Church leaders condemn banks

by David Masters

Church leaders in Northern Ireland have condemned banks for holding back economic recovery in the country.

Leaders from the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church came together to accuse banks of acting in their own self-interest and forcing sound businesses to close.

Many businesses are struggling to survive because banks are refusing to lend, the leaders said.

“There is a culture of aggression and threat where the only priorities are the banks’ priorities,” said Church of Ireland Archbishop Alan Harper.

“It is becoming clear that there is a tangible risk to the economy through banks seeking too rapid a restoration of their own balance sheets.

“That risk translates into a threat to jobs and family income for the rest of us, inflicting additional misery on businesses and their employees.

“Some of the examples I have heard are where the banks aren’t much less than profiteers, exploiting the weaknesses of their customers to an unacceptable level.”

Cardinal Sean Brady, Catholic archbishop of Armagh, said banks should take responsibility to help struggling businesses.

“Many of our banks are businesses that have received support from the tax-payer to get them through these turbulent times,” Cardinal Brady said.

“I think most tax-payers want to see the banks taking a similar approach to the businesses and indeed the homeowners who depend on them.

“Banks have a duty to society, to the social economy of persons as well as for the legitimate pursuit of their own profitability.”

Other church leaders who condemned the banks included Methodist President the Rev Paul Kingston and Presbyterian Moderator Dr Norman Hamilton.

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