Clare Independent TD Michael McNamara says Bank of Ireland’s decision to close three branches in Clare and 85 others throughout the Republic of Ireland underpins the financial sector’s push towards online banking at the expense of many people in rural Ireland.
Bank of Ireland said it has taken a decision to close 103 branches in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, as the acceleration in digital banking has now reached a “tipping point”.
Bank of Ireland will close its branches in Tulla, Kilkee and Miltown Malbay from September.
“While I acknowledge that many people now do some of their banking online, there is a considerable number of people, in particular the elderly, but also small business owners, who rely heavily on over-the-counter and personal transactions,” explained Deputy McNamara. “In making this decision, the Bank of Ireland is abandoning those who have shown a lifetime of loyalty to the company and it is also overlooking those who simply do not feel comfortable going online.”
Deputy McNamara said it is “disingenuous” of Bank of Ireland to cite decreased footfall over the past 12 months for the closure announcement considering the restrictions on movement imposed by lockdowns.
He continued, “These closures will have a particular impact in towns and villages where there is no ATM. In Tulla for example, I requested Bank of Ireland to provide an ATM in the town but was told that it would not be possible due to the prohibitive cost of doing so. There is an ATM in the local Supervalu, but withdrawal limits are in place here and access is restricted by the outlet’s opening hours. It is important that ATM facilities in Kilkee and Miltown Malbay are maintained to enable people to lodge and withdraw cash, while I would ask Bank of Ireland to review the provision of such a service in Tulla.”
Deputy McNamara criticised Tánaiste Leo Varadkar for his response to concerns raised over the future of Clare branches.
He added, “In a recent Dáil reply to my question, the Tánaiste displayed a lack of understanding of the impact the closures will have on some sections of the community. The Government has a 15% stake in Bank of Ireland and a number of Government departments and state agencies have accounts with the Bank of Ireland and therefore, the Government can and should be doing more to influence the bank in its decision making which it clearly hasn’t even attempted to do here.”
Deputy McNamara stated, “The State delayed investment in education and health for over a decade to bail out the banks with taxpayer’s money and therefore, the closure of 88 branches in the Republic of Ireland will be seen as a poor return for our collective investment.”
Commenting on Bank of Ireland’s partnership with An Post which will enable its customers able to access 32 Post Office locations across Clare for their banking, cash and lodgement needs, Deputy McNamara said, “This is good news but is a service that I have been calling for long before the branch closures. I would be concerned that this service could be undermined by An Post’s ongoing review of its network which is highlighted by its recent decision to close the Post Office in Broadford”
Clare Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley has also condemned the closure of three Bank of Ireland branches across Clare saying it is a significant blow for communities.
Senator Dooley said: “The decision by Bank of Ireland to close three of its branches in Clare is extremely disappointing and represents a significant blow for communities in Tulla, Kilkee and Miltown Malbay.
Older people and the business community will be disproportionately impacted by the decision. For older people many prefer to go into their branch and deal with people rather than use online banking.”
“The retail, business and hospitality community will be very seriously impacted as they will have to travel much further now to lodge money in county towns – which in some cases could lead to them keeping money on premises or in their homes, creating further risks of burglaries.
“While the bank’s partnership announcement with An Post is welcomed to facilitate Bank of Ireland customers in the areas affected, the onus to protect and maintain the post office network in rural communities is now even greater,” Senator Dooley added.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s Cathal Crowe said Bank of Ireland’s decision to shut 103 of its branches, including three in Co. Clare, is a sign of waning commitment to smaller and rural communities.
“Bank of Ireland’s announcement signals a real death knell for a lot of small towns and their surrounding communities in rural Ireland. Some of these bank branches have been in situ for well over a century and offer a vital service to the locality.
“I think Bank of Ireland management are hugely misjudging their customer base because a very large cohort still rely on in-branch face to face banking and online banking is not something they’re able to engage with – be it due to lack of IT skills or in many cases poor internet infrastructure, so this is a very premature move on their part,” Deputy Crowe added.