AIB branch closures in rural Kerry and west Limerick next month will come as a major blow to services in areas that are already feeling increasingly isolated.
Branches are to go in Tarbert, Waterville, Rathmore, Glin and at Park Road in Killarney. While the Killarney Park Road closure will inconvenience many customers, the closures in the rural areas will come as nothing less than a blow to these communities.
It is no surprise that the community in one of these areas is planning a major protest of the move on Friday. Tarbert people who have been left deeply angered by the closure of a branch that has been in the town for over 140 years are protesting the decision in front of the AIB branch in Listowel on Friday afternoon.
Their protest would receive support in Rathmore where locals described the closure of the AIB branch as ' sucking the lifeblood from the community.' It's a protest that will have much deeper resonance than indicating mere annoyance over the closure of a bank branch - it is effectively being mounted as a plea for a halt to the continued diminution of services in rural Kerry communities.
Never before has rural Kerry felt so threatened by the State in terms of its most vital services, from education to security as schools contract and garda stations close. Now, the State-controlled AIB bank has made a decision at its top table to cut costs wherever it thinks it can afford to, with little regard to the opinion of its loyal customers who've stuck with it through more than one bailout.
Alternative suggestions to reduce inconvenience to its rural customers only highlights the lack of rural services further - as in internet banking. Emigration will have left mostly older AIB customers in these areas, those least likely to have internet skills and a lot of the areas are struggling with poor or no broadband connections - a must for secure online banking.
While the stand Tarbert takes in Listowel on Friday might not knock a bead of sweat from the corporate brow in Dublin, the community is to be commended for going to such lengths in its fight to survive as a community into the future.