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Tuesday, 2nd March 2021

Bank of Ireland closures will hit rural areas especially hard - Social Democrats

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The Chair of the Louth Social Democrats, Niall McCreanor.  

The Chair of the Louth Social Democrats, Dunleer resident Niall McCreanor has said that the closure by Bank of Ireland of 103 branches including their branch in Dunleer, is more bad news that will be felt especially in rural areas where closures of local branches have a far reaching impact.

“This will involve the potential loss of jobs and another empty building in the centre of towns,” McCreanor said.

“It also reduces lending to the local economy as well as footfall in towns. These closures will further sever the connection between banking and the communities they serve.”

“The announced closing of the Dunleer branch means people will have to travel to Ardee at minimum for in-person banking services. There is no consideration for the impact this will have on local business, local lending, and indeed customers for whom online banking is not an option. Not to mention the lack of public transport connecting these areas.

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McCreanor  said that the real disgrace is that the State is a significant stakeholder in the Bank of Ireland. “Where is the Minister for Finance in all of this?” he asked, “The government can and should take a more active role in this.

Also, the Bank of Ireland branch closures come in the wake of the announcement of the withdrawal of Ulster bank from the Irish market. These decisions are being taken by senior bank management without reference to the needs of Irish society and the economy. The Government needs to get far more proactive in relation to the direction of the sector.

Last July, at the Covid-19 Oireachtas Committee, Róisín Shortall, co-leader of the Social Democrats, directly raised with the Central Bank Governor a clear breach of the Central Bank consumer code on bank branch closures by Bank of Ireland. They had given just 24 hours’ notice for the closure of 101 branches last March. This consumer protection code needs to be strengthened, to give more weight to the concerns of local communities and customers, and compliance with the code must be ensured. 

The Social Democrats have been calling for the establishment of a banking forum, where all the issues can be set out in detail and the future of Irish banking properly discussed.

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