Bank of Ireland to close local branches

There was widespread anger this week as Bank of Ireland announced on Monday that it would be closing three local branches by the end of September.

The decision will leave Elphin and Strokestown in Co. Roscommon and Ballygar and Dunmore in east Galway without banking facilities from October.

The local branches are part of 103 closures in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, with Bank of Ireland claiming that the acceleration in digital banking has now reached a “tipping point”.

Bank of Ireland has said it will work with An Post to continue to provide banking services through local post offices.

Public representatives in Roscommon and Galway were highly critical of Bank of Ireland’s decision this week.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said the decision was another effort to “whittle down services in rural Ireland”.

“To announce these closures in the midst of a lockdown heaps further anxiety on the most vulnerable in our society who prefer interacting with a human to complete their transactions rather than a machine,” he said.

“While the bank may point towards the uptake in online banking and the surge in use of its app, that will mean little to elderly people or anyone who is not technologically savvy.

“The partnership with An Post is welcome…but given the state of play with An Post at present, could you depend on all of these post offices remaining open in the long run?”

Sinn Féin TD Claire Kerrane said the closures were “concerning for job creation and the development of rural towns”.

“Research has found that bank branch closures reduce SME lending growth by 63% in affected areas rising to 104% when it is the last branch in the area,” she said.

“This means a very immediate negative impact on economic growth, something we simply cannot afford in these towns”.

Deputy Kerrane added that Irish people had “pumped €4.7 billion into Bank of Ireland” during the financial crash and echoed calls from the Financial Services Union for a moratorium on branch closures until the end of 2022.

Independent TD Denis Naughten said it was a huge blow to local communities and said the Government needed to revisit the establishment of a State bank for SMEs and personal customers.

He said: “We need to examine whether this could be done through An Post or the local Credit Union network, both of which have the infrastructure, facilities, and visibility in our communities.

“A new State bank offering low interest rates without personal guarantees is now required to support both businesses and communities as they begin to reopen when we emerge from lockdown”.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD Frank Feighan, has vowed to raise the issue of closures in Sligo, Leitrim and south Donegal with the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.