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Commenting on the news that Bank of Ireland will start a programme of branch closures in September, Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD said:

“The closures announced this morning represent more bad news for Irish banking. Bank branches are an important focal point in many communities. The closure of the branches will further sever the connection between banking and the communities they serve.

“The State is a significant stakeholder in Bank of Ireland. We need to hear from the Minister for Finance in relation to his view of today’s announcement. How much contact has he had with Bank of Ireland in relation to these branch closures?

“A closure of 88 branches in the Republic of Ireland and 15 in Northern Ireland represents a very significant reduction in the Bank of Ireland retail network. What is very worrying is that no impact assessment of what these closures will mean has been carried out. There are concerns about what impact they will have on local business, local lending, and indeed vulnerable customers who may have particular needs and for whom online banking is not an option.

“Last July, at the Covid-19 Oireachtas Committee, I directly raised with the Central Bank Governor a clear breach of the Central Bank consumer code on bank branch closures by Bank of Ireland. They had given just 24 hours’ notice for the closure of 101 branches last March. This consumer protection code needs to be strengthened, to give more weight to the concerns of local communities and customers, and compliance with the code must be ensured.

“News of the Bank of Ireland branch closures comes in the wake of the announcement of the withdrawal of Ulster bank from the Irish market. These decisions are being taken by senior bank management without reference to the needs of Irish society and the economy. The Government needs to get far more proactive in relation to the direction of the sector. This should start with the establishment of a banking forum, where all the issues can be set out in detail and the future of Irish banking properly discussed.

“This morning’s news will cause worry and concern among staff, who deserve to be properly engaged with, not merely communicated with after decisions are taken.”

March 1, 2021

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