Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has warned that people in rural areas will have to rely on local post offices or credit unions as major banks in Ireland shutdown their local branches.
He was responding to a question from former Tourism Minister Brendan Griffin on whether banks would impose minimum public service obligations to maintain or provide basic financial services in rural areas.
He also points out that there are no banking or ATM services after 9pm in Ballybunion, a seaside resort town in County Kerry.
At the same time, the minister said credit unions and post offices were providing much needed banking services in Ireland.
There are 1,912 branches of banks, credit unions and post offices operating in Ireland, according to a report released by the Treasury Department last year on banks in the country. Of these, 63 per cent are branches, post offices or credit unions and the banks are only 37 per cent.
The report states that a significant percentage of the population lives in rural areas and has a large number of per capita branches.
As a result, even if the number of bank branches is reduced, financial services including payment account, personal loans, credit cards, various insurance, money transmission and foreign exchange services can be obtained from a post office.
Paschal Donohoe said people can withdraw money through post offices but cash back is an alternative way to withdraw money when branches are closed.
He said that Ireland is the only EU member state where cashback is normally practiced and retailers do not charge extra for it.
Credit unions can also make third-party payments, such as ATM services.
He said the banking sector was suffering due to the current crisis and the challenging working environment had put pressure on the traditional banking sector for some time.
At the same time, he said that necessary steps would be taken to ensure banking infrastructure in rural areas.