Bank of Ireland closures mark 'whittling away' of local services

Bank of Ireland closures mark 'whittling away' of local services

Johanna Murphy, President Cobh and Harbour Chamber of Commerce standing outside the Bank of Ireland in Cobh, Co Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Bank of Ireland's closure of 88 local branches from today has left communities angry at the "whittling away" of local services. 

Many services such as cash withdrawals and bank lodgements have now been transferred to An Post, but communities still feel the withdrawal of Bank of Ireland branches will be deeply felt and will add to building vacancy issues in many towns. 

Cork is losing nine local branches, a decision that leaves Johanna Murphy, auctioneer and President of the Cobh Chamber of Commerce, astounded. 

“Bank of Ireland in Cobh knows the community wants it here,” she said. 

She can't understand why the busy commuter town, with a growing population, is losing its local branch, saying the bank and its staff will be missed by the community. 

"Missed is the word because people build up a relationship with their staff," she said.

The Bank of Ireland branch in Kilmacthomas, Co. Waterford.
The Bank of Ireland branch in Kilmacthomas, Co. Waterford.

 

Auctioneer and former Mayor of Limerick, Michael Collins, said the loss is a blow to rural Ireland.

He is frustrated by the lack of political reaction to the issue, including from his own party, Fianna Fáil.  

“Limerick has been severely hit with the closure of seven branches and predominantly in rural locations,” he said.

“Rathkeale is closest to me and they are really up in arms, they are really upset at the closure of their bank there”. 

The impact on older people living in rural areas has also been highlighted. 

Nat O'Connor, a spokesperson for Age Action, said the closures are of huge concern, citing the increased risk of financial abuse. 

He said the common perception that a family member is available to assist an older person to bank elsewhere is not always the case. 

"Often there might not be somebody on hand and also the older person may not want that in terms of divulging their private information. People value their independence, they don’t want to be forced by these external circumstances to hand over their affairs to somebody else,” he said.

Many of the branches that are closing are landmark buildings in towns that are already blighted by dereliction and high vacancy rates. 

Kevin Smyth, a registered architect based in Cork, is trying to tackle dereliction on Cork city’s North Main Street.

He said the closed local bank branches can pose a major risk of vacancy and later dereliction.

This is because the buildings are often purpose-built and are not easily adapted.

“My point is the buildings were purpose-built as banks and are not easily adapted in many cases. 

"And when they are protected structures this can make it more tricky. This is the case with other fine buildings built for a single-use, like churches for instance,” said Mr Smyth.

For Gerard Hurley, chief executive of the Waterford Chamber of Commerce, the decision is "ill-timed" and a "major inconvenience". 

“Face to face service is an essential part of customer care and it’s difficult to see how customer care, which Banks pride themselves on, can be achieved without human contact," he said, "Not all business can be transacted online". 

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