'We want one to one,' say banking clients
Locals take to the streets in protest at reduced BOI services
Bank of Ireland customers in Ballymote turned out to protest last Friday at the bank's decision to remove over the counter services.
Over 65 people, primarily of the older generation, arrived outside the Ballymote branch with placards to let the bank know their displeasure at the move.
"It's a total and absolute disgrace," said one customer, Marie. "Let's be realistic, it will eventually close. We have Ulster Bank going on 8th of September and they're telling us this bank is going to stay open but that's only going to be short lived. Who are they codding?" she said.
The branch is currently open five days per week with a counter service available on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Self service cash is available everyday.
Another customer, Martina, said: "For older people it's not practical at all because they need someone to talk to. They need the one-to-one, not just use a machine. It'll stop them going into the bank."
Organiser Máire Doddy said she had collected "hundreds" of signatures for a petition against the closure of the counter services.
"We hope we can change their decision. There's no decision that can't be but changed," she said.
"We're just hoping for the best. It'll be a sad day for Ballymote if the counter services close. You can't change a bag of change. They say they'll deal with Sterling cheques alright but if you want to get foreign money you won't get them here," she said.
"There's a busy mart here on a Thursday, even if they would just keep one counter open on that day, that'd be adequate.
"I don't think there'll be girls floating around outside the counter for too long," she added.
The protest was attended by Sligo Leitrim Deputy Martin Kenny who said all the constituency TDs were united in opposition to the BOI decision.
Also present were Councillors Thomas Healy, Cathaoirleach of Ballymote/Tubbercurry Municipal District Cllr Jerry Lundy, Margaret Gormley, Chris MacManus, Michael Clarke, Keith Henry, Vincent Roddy of the Irish Hill Farmers Association and Joint Chairperson of the Public Banking Forum of Ireland Seamus Maye.
"We believe that the banking system in Ireland is dysfunctional. The German public banking system accounts for over 70 per cent of the German economy and we need to replicate it here in Ireland," he said.
"We just need to combine the resources of the Post Offices and the Credit Unions and introduce 10/12 public banks across the country and it would provide real competition to the structures that we have in place at a lot lower interest rates," he said.
Cllr Thomas Healy said: "All the services are being cut in rural areas. I worked here in 2002 and there were three banks, today it's down to one."
Cllr Jerry Lundy said now that the banks were starting to make a bit of profit they were "turning their backs on the Irish people who bailed them out and saved them from extinction."
Cllr Dara Mulvey said the community felt that a lot of services were being removed and the elderly felt many changes were being forced on them. "That's disappointing because a lot of elderly people did business with the banks for many years. I believe BOI need to listen to the voice of the community."
Another protester, Ria Hever, flew over from London especially for the protest.
"It's a facility we're entitled to have. The people own the bank," she said.
"It's really important for businesses," she said, adding that she was planning on moving back to Ballymote where her family lives.
"In England they're even open on Saturdays, you've got tills there, and human beings," she said.
"I've been banking here since I was four years of age," said Cllr Keith Henry.
"For people of my age it won't affect us that much but definitely I feel empathy for the older clientele and the businesses that are discommoded by having to travel."
Cllr Chris MacManus said "faceless bureaucrats in an office in Dublin, who do not understand rural Ireland, are turning their backs on us.
"Citizens in the west of Ireland are not second-class. All we want is equality. The Government and corporate Ireland must understand that every downgrading of services, be they bank, post office, Garda station or schools, tears another hole in the fabric of our communities," he said.
"Bank of Ireland should be looking after their customers," said Cllr Gormley.