Brian Lenihan: 'no role'

He may be able to authorise the payment of billions of euro of taxpayer money to help bail out the banks and order AIB not to pay out some €40m in executive bonuses.

But finance minister Brian Lenihan has no plans to ask Bank of Ireland (BoI) to review its decision to impose a range of additional charges for hard-pressed customers with low usage of their current accounts.

Although a spokesman for Lenihan described the decision by BoI to introduce the charges as "disappointing", he indicated that Lenihan had not raised any concerns with the bank about the measure since it was announced before Christmas.

"The government operates an arms-length relationship with the banks in which the state has a shareholding and the commercial decisions on how best to operate the bank remain a matter for management and the board," he said.

"The minister has no role in the setting or monitoring of bank charges. This responsibility lies with the Central Bank."

BoI provoked widespread criticism from opposition politicians and consumer groups when it revealed last month that current account holders who do not make at least nine payments every quarter online or over the phone will have fees imposed on them.

On top of this, they will have to have a minimum of €3,000 per quarter going into their account to avoid the fees.

Alternatively, customers can also avoid fees by keeping a minimum credit balance of €3,000 in their accounts during the quarter.

The bank has around 1.2 million personal customers, and critics of the move argue it will target the poorest in society.