Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has emphasised the important role of the banking sector in supporting the gradual reopening of the economy during a meeting with the chief executives of the five main Irish banks. 

Mr Varadkar told the bosses of AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank, Permanent TSB and KBC that they needed to ensure a flow of credit to businesses as they begin to trade again.

The Taoiseach also welcomed the ongoing efforts of the banks in assisting borrowers, including through the use of payment breaks, the availability of which has been extended from three to six months.

The efforts of the retail banks to remain open during the crisis and the work of bank staff was also acknowledged and commended by the Taoiseach.

Both the banks and the Government also jointly recognised the challenge facing many businesses in a statement issued after the meeting. 

The Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe and the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys also attended the meeting.

"Banks will play a key role in assisting SMEs through the economic recovery period and will continue to work closely with the Department of An Taoiseach, the Department of Finance and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in providing that support, especially on the key issue of liquidity," said chief executive of the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland, Brian Hayes, who was also present.
 
"Our collective efforts are focused on ensuring Irish SMEs and their employees have the support they require and that they are in a position to trade and rebuild their businesses as Irish and global economies reopen in the months ahead."