Today’s announcement of branch closures across the island by Bank of Ireland is the “wrong decision at the worst possible time”, a Galway West TD has said.
Mairéad Farrell TD made the comments after the bank announced this morning that it will close over a third of its branches in the Republic and more than 50% of its branches in the North from September.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after Ulster Bank announced its withdrawal from the market in the south.
“It is a huge blow for customers and staff,” said Deputy Farrell. “Bank of Ireland has attempted to justify this announcement based on a fall in branch visits over the past twelve months.
“This is hardly surprising given the entire population has had its movements significantly restricted in response to a public health emergency.”
The Sinn Féin TD argued that in reality, the bank is using Covid-19 for cover, punishing customers for following public health regulations.
“This is not just a cynical move, but a slap in the face that will hurt customers, staff and communities,” she said.
“This knee-jerk reaction will leave vulnerable customers without access to essential services.
“How can Bank of Ireland engage with and prepare these customers for branch closures when public health restrictions are in place? Why was there no consultation and no stakeholder engagement?”
Deputy Farrell said that the only conclusion she can draw is that they ‘have no regard for their customers’.
“Today’s announcement will further damage communities that have already been economically left behind by government policy over the past decade.
“Research has found that bank branch closures reduce SME lending growth by 63 percent in affected areas, rising to 104 percent when it is the last branch in the area.
“We support the call of the Financial Services Union for a moratorium on branch closures until the end of 2022; once this pandemic has ended.
“I will be writing to the CEO of Bank of Ireland, the Minister for Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank in light of today’s announcement.”
Deputy Farrell said that they should reverse the decision immediately and commit to a moratorium on branch closures until the Covid-19 pandemic ends.