Business Irish

Friday 20 April 2018

Communities 'disgusted' at 14 Ulster closures despite profits

Irish banks are charging as much as €3,000 more for life cover than brokers
Irish banks are charging as much as €3,000 more for life cover than brokers
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

RURAL communities have reacted with "disgust" that Ulster Bank will press ahead with plans to close 14 branches next month - despite making €752m in profits last year.

RURAL communities have reacted with "disgust" that Ulster Bank will press ahead with plans to close 14 branches next month - despite making €752m in profits last year.

Branches in Athboy, Co Meath; Loughrea, Co Galway; and Roscrea, Co Tipperary, are among those that will close.

Customers living in areas where branches are shutting down are being encouraged to use telephone and internet banking.

However, communities in various country towns and villages feel they are losing out to larger urban areas.

Local representatives argue they don't have the same access to broadband, wireless internet, or phone technology that urban areas enjoy.

The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) says it is "ridiculous" for Ulster Bank to tell rural customers to bank online when broadband in so many rural areas is "patchy or non-existent".

"There are huge swathes of the country where the internet connection is dire. For instance, only 53pc of Offaly has broadband," said John Keena, chairman of Offaly IFA.

He stressed that the closure of branches was set to rip the commercial heart out of many towns - with so many struggling already with a host of economic problems.

"Any town that has a bank has an added bit of stature to it - but they're taking out the cornerstone of the whole range of communities." The closures would severely impact people who were not computer literate, he added.

"They're telling us to go online, but this is farcical, given that so many people of a certain age don't know anything about computers, and cannot operate them."

He also accused the bank of "ignoring rural Ireland".

"It's shocking that despite making such huge profits, they're still going ahead with the closures," he added.

Limerick councillor Richard O'Donoghue said the closure of the Croom branch was a "nail in the coffin of rural Ireland".

"These decisions are being made in Dublin - they're looking at figures, and ignoring the fact that people in rural areas need such a basic service," he told the Irish Independent.

The closure of certain branches would lead to "a number" of job losses, said a spokesperson for the bank. But there were no plans to cut branch numbers further this year, she added.

Irish Independent

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