Bank of Ireland branch closures at ‘Blayney & Clones ‘potentially devastating’ – Matt Carthy TD
Sinn Féin Deputy calls for government intervention
Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy has said that Bank of Ireland’s announced bank closures at Castleblayney and Clones could be ‘potentially devastating’ for towns that have been trying to rebuild over recent years. He described the bank’s announcement to shut 103 branches across the country as the ‘wrong decision at the wrong time’ for customers and staff, and he said that it will create further undue hardship in the wake of the recent Ulster Bank decision to withdraw from the market.
Deputy Carthy has called on the government, as a major shareholder in Bank of Ireland to intervene. He recalled that the Irish people were forced to bailout the bank to the tune of €4.7billion following the financial crash.
He said that the closures will be a significant blow to the towns of Castleblayney and Clones which have both seen heroic efforts by local communities over the past number of years to revitalise their towns following decades of government neglect and the impact of partition and conflict.
Teachta Carthy said:
“The Irish government is a major shareholder in Bank of Ireland. Therefore, the Minister for Finance and the Central Bank must intervene at the highest level to try to have this decision reversed. Crocodile tears from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael representatives will not suffice. Those parties oversaw €4.7billion of Irish people’s money into this bank – the least we can expect that in government those same parties will intervene to stop this disastrous decision.
“The closure of branches in Clones and Castleblayney could be potentially devastating to those towns. In recent years local communities in both towns have been doing tremendous work in revitalising their local economies. Both towns suffered greatly as a result of partition and conflict and also due to the absolute neglect of successive governments.
“The removal of these bank branches come after several other public services have been removed from towns like Clones and ‘Blayney. Any recovery has been driven by the work of local businesses and townspeople often despite government refusal to invest adequately in services and infrastructure.
Excuse of Covid
“It is particularly galling that Bank of Ireland have cited the reduced footfall in their branches over the past year as a key rationale for these closures. They know that this reduction is almost entirely related to the Covid-19 restrictions. In essence, Bank of Ireland are penalising local communities for adhering to public health advice. “This is tantamount to profiteering and will refuse critical facilities to vulnerable customers.
“These closures are blatant profiteering. They will damage small-to-medium sized businesses in particular. We know that when there isn’t a local branch available, SMEs have less access to credit.
“How are these businesses supposed to get back on their feet in the months ahead if they cannot avail of basic banking facilities?
“In Sinn Féin, we support the call of the Financial Services Union for a moratorium on branch closures until the end of 2022.
“But crucially we demand government intervention. The Minister for Finance holds a significant interest in Bank of Ireland, while the Governor of the Central Bank is responsible for consumer protection. They have a duty to do everything possible to prioritize the needs of citizens, consumers and they communities we live in.
“They need to show the same urgency for local communities as they did for the banks themselves when €4.7billion was pumped into Bank of Ireland.
“On a broader level Sinn Féin has proposed the establishment of a Future of Banking Forum to address topics such as banking in the digital era and how banks can better serve consumers and communities who rely on their services.
“Bank of Ireland’s announcement was not strategic, but rather a hasty response without merit that cannot be justified.
“They should promptly reconsider this decision and yield to Sinn Féin’s call for a branch closing freeze until the Covid-19 pandemic is over. If the bank don’t make such a gesture then immediate government intervention must ensue.”