Allied Irish Bank HQ, Dublin

Ireland's troubled banks are for sale, the country's central bank chief Patrick Honohan told the press yesterday, as the Irish government seeks to reign them in after irresponsible lending forced the country to seek an international bailout.

"They are for sale as far as I am concerned," Honohan told the press. "I have been an advocate for a number of years for small countries to have foreign owners for their banks."

The U.S. investor Wilbur Ross, an investor known for restructuring failed companies, told the press he was very far along in bidding for the Educational Building Society (EBS) bank in Ireland. Ross is part of a private equity consortium that will submit a final bid for building society EBS next month.

Meanwhile Allied Irish Banks (AIB) has sold assets in Poland and the United States and last week it stopped the sale of its UK business due to a lack of market interest.

Gary McCarthy, a Dublin financial analyst, said Honohan's comments could signal that something dramatic may be on the cards, such as the entire sale of AIB.

"An option, albeit one that is difficult to execute, is that one of the banks disappears from the state balance sheet," McCarthy told the press. "This is an issue not just about capital, it is about the day-to-day funding as well."

Honohan said a the Irish governments so-called bad bank plan, known as the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) had not bolstered troubled Irish lenders and had been too slow to offer assistance.

"It has not had the result we had hoped for," he said. "Well, we have to have another go. I am not hearing too many people saying change course, you got it completely wrong, they are saying this is pretty big and it is not surprising we have not got through it yet."