Questions have been asked in the Dáil about the decision by Bank of Scotland Ireland to close its Irish Halifax operation with the loss of 750 jobs.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen was asked by Opposition leaders what effect the decision would have on the banking sector.

Mr Cowen said he regretted the bank's decision, but that it would maintain a presence in Ireland.

The Taoiseach reassured customers of Bank of Scotland Ireland that they will be looked after and not disadvantaged by the decision of the bank to close its branch network in Ireland.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny asked what the Government now proposed to do to introduce choice and competition in the banking sector.

Mr Kenny said we could not afford to return to the 'cosy cartel of Bank of Ireland and AIB'.

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore asked Mr Cowen if Bank of Scotland had proposed amalgamating with other institutions in the State.

He expressed disbelief that the Government was only notified of the proposed job losses yesterday, when the banking system had been central to political considerations for the past year.

The Taoiseach said the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and the Central Bank monitor banking operations on an ongoing basis.

He said the bank was not part of the State guarantee and was a subsidiary of a larger bank, which has suffered significant losses.

UNITE to oppose job losses

A senior trade unionist has said the decision by the Bank of Scotland Ireland to leave the country will be opposed.

UNITE's regional officer Brian Gallagher was speaking on Morning Ireland.

Mr Gallagher said that UNITE still believes that there is a role for the bank in the Irish economy.

He said its experience in lending to small and medium businesses is second to none.

He added that Bank of Scotland Ireland should have held off on a decision to close Halifax banks until it was seen if a third banking force, entailing a merger between Bank of Scotland Ireland, Permanent TSB, The EBS and Irish Nationwide, could have been achieved.

Mr Gallagher also said that he would not rule out any form of action in the union's fight to salvage the jobs.