Bank of Ireland has posted an underlying profit before tax of €376 million for the first half of the year - down on the €500m reported this time last year.

The financier remains the largest lender to the Irish economy, with a 23% share of the mortgage market here.

The bank announced new lending of €1 billion on the Irish mortgage market.

Bank of Ireland also reported new lending of €7.7bn, which was in line with last year.

There was €1.5bn worth of new lending on the small and medium-sized enterprise market.

It also reported an impairment charge of €79m for the six month period. 

BoI chief executive Francesca McDonagh said the group continued to grow the loan book while maintaining "risk and commercial discipline".

She said the lender was still committed to the target it set out a year ago of 20% growth in the loan book between 2018 and 2021, despite a change to the external environment.

"The interest rate environment is expected to be lower for longer. Not withstanding that, we're seeing strong growth in our business."

"We're seeing more uncertainty about Brexit. Listening to the emotional rhetoric, it's pointing to greater risk," she said.

Ms McDonagh said the bank was nonetheless committed to its UK business, where it has had a presence for over 40 years, and was 'comfortable' with its diversification in the market there.

"It's a high quality business. We did talk a year ago about re-positioning parts of that portfolio and we've done that. We sold some of the portfolio, such as the UK credit card business. We've also invested and grown."

The lender reported that it had reduced its non-performing loan volume to 5.3% of its total book and was on course to get that below its target of 5% by the end of the year.

Francesca McDonagh said that didn't necessarily involve further loan sales.

However, she said all options remained at the bank's disposal, including loan sales.

"In order to get our NPEs (non-performing exposures) to sub 5%, we need to reduce by around €300-350 million. Working with our customers should get us there, but all options remain on the table in terms of securitisations or loan sales because reducing NPEs is good for the bank as well as for the broader economy," she concluded.