DUBLIN: The decision to close more than 100 Bank of Ireland branches across Ireland has drawn strong protests. The Bank of Ireland is planning to shut 88 branches in the Republic and 15 branches in Northern Ireland. The bank’s decision is based on the premise of converting everyone to digital transactions.
CEO Francesca McDonagh
The bank’s CEO said the closure of bank branches would begin in September. Branches are being closed to promote digital transactions. Group CEO Francesca McDonagh said that customers want more digital and fewer branches. With the new partnership with An Post, banking services will be available in over 900 locations.
Political parties with criticism
Several political parties, including Sinn Féin and Labour, came out against the bank’s decision.
Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty TD alleges that the bank is punishing users for complying with public health regulations. The announcement by Bank of Ireland that “it is to close over a third of its branches in the south and more than half of its branches in the north from September is the wrong decision at the worst possible time,” he said.
“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,” Pearse Doherty said.
Labour TD Seán Sherlock said the bank’s move was “akin to ripping the commercial heart out of Provincial Ireland.”
“These closures will change the face of our towns, and the impact will be seen on our main streets, felt by family businesses and I am gravely worried about the impact this will have on job losses throughout the entire rural economy.”
“The cynical attempt of the bank to use Covid as cover for these closures is an insult to staff and local communities,” he said. The Labour leader has asked Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe to put a stay on the decision to close, citing serious repercussions.
Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae also criticised the decision. “I’m not too sure what customers Ms McDonagh was listening to but no customer of the branches in Killorglin or Castleisland would ever have uttered the words “loudly and clearly” as another vital service for people living in rural towns is taken away from them, under the pretence that it is a good move for them,” he said.
Another Independent deputy, Michael Fitzmaurice TD, said it was another attack on rural Ireland. “This is yet another effort to whittle down the services available to people in rural
Ireland,” he said.
The unions also expressed concern about the closure. “We are calling on the bank to halt any plans to close these branches, particularly while staff and customers are trying to cope during the pandemic,” Siptu’s Peadar Nolan said.
“We are seeking an immediate meeting with management to discuss this decision and will be seeking alternatives to the plan. We also want the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, to intervene and protect the interests of staff and customers,” he said.
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