Farm groups and political figures have reacted to Bank of Ireland’s decision to close 103 branches across the island.
Bank of Ireland will close 88 of its branches in the Republic of Ireland, alone, from September, reducing its network by one-third.
Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has described the announcement as “another attack” on rural Ireland.
The public representative for the Roscommon-Galway constituency noted that 20% of the closures in the Republic of Ireland will take place across the west and north-west.
Fitzmaurice said: “This is yet another effort to whittle down the services available to people 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.”
“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.”
There are 17 branches across Connacht and Donegal which are set to close, according to this morning’s announcement – many of which cover large rural areas.
Fitzmaurice welcomed the partnership with An Post, but questioned how secure this partnership is moving forward.
“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?”
He is calling on An Post to give a commitment that they will renew the contracts of post offices in the locations where the BOI branches will close in the coming months.
“If a postmaster or postmistress retires or passes away, the community shouldn’t have to live in fear that they will lose yet another service,” Fitzmaurice concluded.
Farm groups react
IFA president, Tim Cullinans, said today’s announcement from Bank of Ireland is “very disappointing news” for farming and rural communities.
“This comes as a slap in the face to farmers and rural communities who rely on local branches for banking services. We estimate that over 80% of the branches identified for closure are in rural locations.”
“The withdrawal of this vital service will discommode those without internet access and people whose preference is to do their banking in person.”
Cullinan said IFA will be seeking an urgent meeting with Bank of Ireland senior management to raise the unfair targeting of rural Ireland with the closure programme.
‘Computer programmed to say dairy expansion good’
Meanwhile, ICSA president, Dermot Kelleher, has said that the decision will “exacerbate the growing detachment of banks from their customers in rural Ireland”.
“The decision will be a disaster for many bank customers who do not have access to quality broadband. The digital divide is going to get worse before it gets better, and yet again rural Ireland is being let down.”
ICSA stated it is especially concerned that the decimation of the frontline relationship between the bank and its customers will play havoc with the essential credit needs of farm families and with the basics of prudent lending.
“Farmers are facing increasingly restrictive decisions regarding credit, particularly in the cattle, sheep, and tillage sectors. The computer in Dublin is programmed to say dairy expansion good, no matter how grandiose; and that everything else is bad.”
“Hence we see perfectly sound propositions for stocking loans, or smaller building projects being turned down or watered down even though the farmers in question have rock solid collateral and a long track record.” He concluded.