AIB’s cashless plan U-turn ‘a victory for consumers’

AIB’s cashless plan U-turn ‘a victory for consumers’

AIB announced its decision not to proceed with cashless services on Friday. Picture: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

AIB’s climbdown on its decision to make 70 of its 170 branches cashless has been branded a “victory for consumers and common sense”.

There has been a broad welcome from community groups, sporting bodies and politicians to the U-turn by AIB, just 72 hours after it announced the plan.

The climbdown will be the source of some embarrassment to AIB Chief Executive Colin Hunt.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, speaking in Singapore, welcomed the AIB decision, saying the move was “the right one”.

Mr Martin denied the Government had been asleep at the wheel on the issue. However his own junior minister Sean Fleming admitted the Government was “totally blindsided” by the AIB decision to close the branches.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the decision was 'the right one'. Picture: GIS Press Office
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the decision was 'the right one'. Picture: GIS Press Office

He said there was no opportunity in advance of the announcement to discuss the issue with the bank and that Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe only found out a matter of hours before the news emerged on Tuesday.

Mr Fleming said the bank has now reflected on the decision and reconsidered and the move to cashless services is “dead in the water”.

“Some people are concerned that this is only paused. It is not, they have reversed the decision,” he said.

Mr Martin said the bank makes its own decisions, but it would normally  give an indication to the Department of Finance of a move of this significance.

He said that he “didn't want to read too much” into the bank not notifying the government of the decision. 

Mr Martin said that the level of notification "is what it is" and that he does not believe the State, which owns 71% of the bank, having a veto would be a good idea.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe also said he welcomed the news as banks have a key role in maintaining the flow of cash through the economy and ensuring appropriate access to retail banking services for all in society, including the vulnerable.

“I note the significant public reaction to AIB’s announcement earlier this week and I welcome the bank’s decision not to proceed with the proposed changes to customer services in certain branches,” he said.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said he welcomed AIB's decision.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said he welcomed AIB's decision.

Mr Donohoe said he looks forward to receiving the findings of his Retail Banking Review later in the year.

Sinn Féin’s Finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said the U-turn is a victory for consumers and communities.

However, he said serious questions remain regarding how the original decision was reached by the bank and its engagements with the Minister for Finance.

“The U-turn by AIB is a welcome one. The original decision to remove critical banking services in 70 branches across the State was the wrong one – a decision that would have abandoned local communities and vulnerable customers,” he said.

Aontú leader, Meath West TD and Finance Committee member Peadar Tóibín said the news is welcome but a temporary reprieve.

Peadar Toibin of Aontu said 'the crisis in banking will continue unless there is provision of proper competition in the banking sector'. Picture: Collins
Peadar Toibin of Aontu said 'the crisis in banking will continue unless there is provision of proper competition in the banking sector'. Picture: Collins

“We welcome the decision by AIB to reverse their decision to close cash services at 70 banks. 

“However the crisis in banking will continue unless there is provision of proper competition in the banking sector. There is a disastrous lack of competition within the banking market. 

It is the root cause of the continuing dysfunction in banking throughout the state. It has not happened by accident.

“Fine Gael created what they called a Pillar Banking System after the crash,” he said.

Earlier and ahead of the U-turn, members of the Rural Independent group of TDs staged a sit-in at AIB's head office in Molesworth Street in Dublin. 

A Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting had been called to discuss the issue but was cancelled once the U-turn was announced.

 

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