Details of the largest shakeup of Irish retail banking in history were revealed this week, with the disclosure that four of the country’s main banks are to close a whopping 200 branches within the next two years.
It appears that Allied Irish Bank, EBS, Ulster Bank and Permanent TSB are planning to close branches in hundreds of towns - in what will be a massive cull, which equates to the cessation of operations in a quarter of all of the bank branches in the country.
Currently there are 846 branches between AIB, EBS, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank but that number is expected to fall to 640 when the plan is implemented.
This will lead to the loss of thousands of jobs, in addition to those already announced, and there is an inherent danger that some towns may lost multiple branches, leaving customers in an impossible situation.
It is all very well to suggest that modern technology, such as internet or telephone banking, can adequately replace the presence of branches in towns throughout the country but the reality is that it cannot do so.
People in rural areas already feel that many of the services which were available to them have been grossly eroded and the loss of a banking facility in their environs will only serve to exacerbate their feeling of exclusion.
The fact is that access to broadband or wireless internet phone technology, which urban areas readily enjoy, is not as easily obtainable in many rural areas and the sense of isolation which people in those areas feel will be significantly increased as a consequence of this action.
It has been pointed out that AIB and National Irish Bank have signed deals with An Post to use the State’s 1,100 post offices for lodging cheques and cash. However, the number of post offices in rural areas has been declining significantly in recent years and therefore even that facility will be unavailable to a great percentage of rural dwellers.
Full editorial in this week’s Tipperary Star.