Cowen reassures bank customers over branch closures

Customers of Bank of Scotland (Ireland) will not be affected by the decision to close 44 high street branches, the Taoiseach said today.

Brian Cowen said he had been assured by bank bosses that tens of thousands of worried mortgage holders and account holders would be looked after despite the sudden pull-out.

The nationwide Halifax network will be closed this summer as well as a call centre in Dundalk.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny warned the withdrawal will reduce competition and asked the Taoiseach not to allow the big two lenders, AIB and Bank of Ireland, to dominate the market.

“Bank of Scotland leave, they take with them competition and choice,” Mr Kenny said.

“Taoiseach, we can’t have a return to the old days of the cosy cartel that operated between Bank of Ireland and AIB.”

Trade union chiefs have vowed to fight to protect jobs in the Stephen’s Green head office, the call centre and retail branches operating under the Halifax banner.

Mr Cowen said he regretted the decision to axe the jobs but said the bank will maintain a presence in Ireland.

“I have been assured that all customers of Bank of Scotland (Ireland) will be looked after and will not be disadvantaged by the changes,” Mr Cowen told the Dail.

“Bank of Scotland (Ireland) will continue to have a presence in Ireland, obviously with 750 of the 1600 jobs presently gainfully employed there no longer part of the operation after July.”

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