Members of the Rural Independents group of TDs have said they are “profoundly alarmed” at the decision by KBC Bank to exit the Irish banking market.

TDs Mattie McGrath (Tipperary), Carol Nolan (Laois-Offaly) and Michael Collins (Cork South-West) released a joint statement following the announcement from KBC that it was negotiating the sale of its loanbook to Bank of Ireland, and is looking to divest its non-performing loans.

The three TDs said: “In December 2018 we engaged in a peaceful sit-in protest at the KBC branch on Baggot Street in Dublin in order to highlight the bank’s…lack of engagement with customers in arrears and those who were having trouble making repayments.

“We followed that up with a meeting with senior representatives from KBC where we again highlighted…that many of the company’s customers felt like they were being driven to the brink in terms of the…collection strategies that were being employed.”

In the joint statement, the TDs claimed that KBC’s ‘non-performing’ loans would “most likely [be sold] to vulture funds as no other bank will touch them”.

The deputies also said that the “central problem” revolves around what criteria the bank uses to determine if a loan is non-performing.

“The vast majority of customers make meaningful and constructive engagement with banks. Yet they are still being categorised as ‘non-performing’ because they cannot meet the unrealistic repayment conditions that are being imposed upon them,” the TDs said.

“KBC says that all of this will be subject to regulatory and government approval. Our view is that this firmly places the next move squarely in the government’s court.

“Irish customers cannot be left to the mercy of a vulture fund feeding frenzy. However, with the exit of Ulster Bank and now KBC, it appears that it is open season on the struggling Irish mortgage holder, farmer and small business,” they claimed.

“This government better get its act together and make a stand for the Irish customer, because to date the evidence is simply not there to suggest that there is anything like the kind of political spine needed to prioritise their interests,” the statement concluded.