Dark days as Castleisland, Killorglin and MTU Bank of Ireland branches to close by late 2021
Vital rural services are being taken away from local communities according to local politicians, who have hit out the latest branch closures by Bank of Ireland this week.
The decision by Bank of Ireland to close three Kerry branches - in Killorglin, Castleisland and at Tralee MTU - comes hot on the heels of Ulster Bank pulling out of the Irish market and affects customers across Kerry.
Services were already at a minimum at the branches, but the decision has been labelled an 'attack on rural Ireland'.
"Up to now our main worry was about the closure of small rural Post Offices which are so crucial to rural life, but the announcement of the closure by Bank of Ireland of 88 of its branches has brought devastation, for both business and private customers, to a whole new level," said Cllr Michael Cahill.
"As a nation, we need a strong, clear plan to be put in place, whereby financial and postal services are mapped out and guaranteed to all of our people, not just those in the cities."
Bank of Ireland announced that its services in towns where banks are closed will be available in local post offices, which is seen as a positive move.
Cllr John Francis Flynn, although critical of the decision by Bank of Ireland to close local branches, said that providing bank services in the local post office will benefit the community and ensure that customers have some service.
Damian Quigg, who is a former councillor, is however highly critical of the decision and said that it 'beggars belief' that Bank of Ireland would close its branch in a thriving town like Killorglin.
TD Michael Healy-Rae has said the decision marks the end of 'another vital service' in rural Ireland.
The Kerry deputy feels that this is a second-phase attack on rural institutions as the network of rural Post Offices has already taken a "severe battering in recent times", and he feels that the door is now being firmly closed on rural Ireland once and for all.
Sinn Féin TD Pa Daly blasted the decision as "not just a cynical move, but a slap in the face that will hurt customers, staff, and communities".
In Castleisland, Michael John Kearney of Castleisland Chamber Alliance said the news was "disappointing" but had been coming for some time, with on-site services being scaled back over the years. He added that he feels this will be a short-term blow as opposed to a death kneel for the town.
"People in Castleisland and its environs will be left stuck, and they'll be left with long distances to travel, particularly older people," he said. "But Castleisland is bigger than Bank of Ireland and is doing better than most towns in the county as it has a broad base of businesses, and you still have AIB, a strong Credit Union, and the post office, so there are banking options there."
Labour Councillor Terry O'Brien was also fiercely critical of the move and said the MTU branch closure would hurt Tralee, especially its student population.