Elphin left ‘high and dry’ by bank’s decision

There was widespread anger in Elphin this week after it was announced that Bank of Ireland would be closing its branch in the town in September.

The announcement means that many local customers, with personal and business accounts, may now be forced to travel further afield to do their banking.

Local councillor Valerie Byrne accused the bank of leaving local customers “high and dry”.

“For elderly people, this is a terrible thing to have happen and many will be left high and dry by this decision.

“It will hit the towns of Elphin and Strokestown because customers will now have to travel to Carrick-on-Shannon or Roscommon and that’s where they will most likely do their shopping so it has a knock-on effect for local businesses,” she said.

Cllr. Byrne claims Covid-19 has “bailed out” Bank of Ireland, who had closed both local branches when the pandemic hit last March.

“Both banks closed last year and then reopened without counter services. The people of these areas are very angry because they stood behind Bank of Ireland in the past.

“This decision is all about money. Local businesses need cheques lodged straight away and not everyone has the luxury of travelling to other towns or even other counties to do their banking.

“This will also lead to people living in fear in their homes because they will have to hang on to money,” she said.

Cllr. Byrne said she is calling on Bank of Ireland to provide proper ATM services in Elphin and also for the bank to give former bank buildings to local communities so they can be put to other uses.

The Chairman of Boyle Municipal District, Fine Gael councillor Liam Callaghan, said the decision left a 60km area in the county without a banking service.

He called on Bank of Ireland to make the necessary resources available to An Post, as part of its new partnership, so that it can continue to provide services.

“There are still a lot of issues to be sorted out,” he said. “BOI will have to help ensure An Post can cater for an increased footfall, especially on Fridays when pensions are paid out and businesses are lodging their weekly takings.

“The staff of these banks deserve special mention also because they have also given customers a very courteous and professional service over the years,” he said.

The people of Elphin reacted angrily to the news this week with local butcher, Benedict Morris, describing it as “a travesty”.

“We’re not happy about it, I suppose it’s lucky that we have the post office beside us here but there was doubt all along when they closed the bank due to Covid-19. Now it’s only open until one o’clock each day.

“We were told that they couldn’t put an ATM outside the bank because it’s a listed building. Two banks closing side by side is a travesty and we’ll have to go to Carrick or Boyle now to make lodgements,” he said.

Imelda Fleming works in the local pharmacy and she said the bank would be a big loss to the town.

“For older people who are no familiar with online banking, it’s very hard. A lot of people have been talking about it this week and how it will be such a big loss for the area,” she said.

Ursula Casserly, who works in Glancy’s Supermarket, said it was “another nail in the coffin of Elphin”.

“There’s very little footfall here as it is and the bank was a lifeline for older people. I was talking to one customer and he comes here once a week to fill up on petrol and then goes to the bank. That’s his only social interaction each week,” she said.

Ursula added that the bank was a vital service for workers in the town who had to lodge cash each week.

“The post office is a very small building and there’s very little privacy there. Plus, where are they going to get the people to man those buildings?”

Her colleague Mary Finnerty said it was unacceptable that customers could now be forced to travel to another county to bank.

“There’s no parking in Carrick, it’s a nightmare. I had to step into the breach when my husband passed away last May and our single farm payments are lodged in the Elphin branch.

“The problem is that when a service is here people don’t use it and when it’s gone then they whinge about it,” she said.