East Mayo reeling from shock Bank of Ireland announcement
The announcement of the closure of Bank of Ireland branches in Ballyhaunis, Charlestown and Kiltimagh has been met with great concern in the east Mayo area.
Yesterday (Monday), Bank of Ireland announced the closure of 88 branches in the Republic of Ireland, as well as 15 branches in Northern Ireland. The move will see the bank’s branch network in Ireland reduce from 257 to 169 and from 28 to 13 in Northern Ireland.
Bank of Ireland said reasons for the move included decreased footfall in branches and increased demand for online services.
It said in a statement that the closures will not start until September. It is also partnering with An Post to allow some of its services to be delivered at over 900 locations around the country.
‘Unacceptable’ – Calleary
The decision has been met with deep concern by local TDs, with Deputy Dara Calleary describing it as ‘a massive blow’ to the areas affected.
Deputy Calleary stated: “My initial thoughts today are with the staff of all the branches that have been selected for closure, not least the three in East Mayo – Ballyhaunis, Charlestown and Kiltimagh – but also the two branches in neighbouring Ballymote and Tubbercurry. This is a massive blow to them and their families and to the whole community of each town and hinterland,” he said.
“To close three branches in east Mayo is an unacceptable blow to the region, and while I acknowledge that services are to be made available via the An Post network, Bank of Ireland cannot be allowed to simply close the doors and walk away from loyal customers and communities who have given them business through many decades, particularly during such a challenging time for business and individuals affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
“I will be raising the matter in the Dáil this week,” he concluded.
The Fianna Fáil TD’s sentiments were echoed by Deputy Michael Ring, who said financial service providers must offer proper services to rural towns and villages.
He also expressed sympathy with the Bank of Ireland employees affected and their families, calling on Bank of Ireland to offer them support.
“It is good that a new partnership is being provided with post offices across the country to countenance these closures,” the Fine Gael TD said. “Business and personal Bank of Ireland customers can use their use local post office for a range of banking services – including cash withdrawal and to make cash and cheque lodgements.
“On average, these post offices are less than 500m from the bank branch listed for closure from September 2021 on.
“However, all financial providers must bear in mind the loyalty that their customers across rural Ireland have given them.”
He continued: “Not all people want to bank online. Many prefer to speak to a bank employee rather than listen to an automated service over the phone. People have their own reasons for this – security, comfort or familiarity.
“These services must continue the length and breadth of the country, and the financial providers, whether they are banks, mortgage providers, post offices, need to realise this.”
Deputy Ring also called on people to support the services that are available in their community. “Rural Ireland needs all the supports it has and more,” he added.
Using Covid for cover
Sinn Féin TD for Mayo Rose Conway-Walsh described the announcement as ‘the wrong decision at the worst possible time’.
“This comes in the teeth of a global pandemic and less than two weeks after Ulster Bank announced its withdrawal from the southern market. It is a huge blow for customers and staff.
“Bank of Ireland has attempted to justify this announcement based on a fall in branch visits over the past twelve months. This is hardly surprising given the entire population has had its movements significantly restricted in response to a public health emergency.
“In reality, the bank is using Covid-19 for cover, punishing customers for following public health regulations. This is not just a cynical move, but a slap in the face that will hurt customers, staff and communities. They should reverse this decision immediately and commit to a moratorium on branch closures until the Covid-19 pandemic ends.”
The decision has been met with anger among other rural TDs, with Galway-Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice describing the move as ‘yet another an attack on rural Ireland’.
Bank of Ireland says it will continue to offer services in post offices in the Ballyhaunis, Charelstown and Kiltimagh areas.