Rescued bank 'closes branch doors in the faces of those who bailed them out'

Sat, Oct 27, 2012, 01:00

Customers in Mayo have expressed deep disappointment as four AIB outlets in the county shut up shop for the last time

FOUR AIB branches in Co Mayo closed for the last time yesterday. Long-standing customers showed deep disappointment rather than any weeping or gnashing of teeth.

“It’s a big loss for a small town,” said Charlestown publican and hardware shop owner John Finan, as he bemoaned the imminent departure of the local AIB branch after 30 years on Main Street.

Charlestown was one of the 44 branches closed yesterday by AIB. A total of 67 branches will have closed by next year.

The other Mayo towns where the bank is bringing down the shutters are Ballyhaunis, Kiltimagh and Belmullet.

On the streets of Charlestown yesterday there was stoic acceptance of the closure.

Sometimes, however, anger flashed in the faces of those being interviewed. “The banks themselves messed the situation up,” said pharmacist Paddy Colleran. “Now the ordinary public in towns like Charlestown, which are struggling to survive, are paying the price.”

Colleran’s sentiments were echoed by Gerry Murray, owner of Murray’s public house on the Town Square.

“AIB was saved by the taxpayers,” said Murray, a member of Mayo County Council. “The bank’s response has been to close branch doors in the faces of those who bailed them out.”

At about noon Angela Casey of Casey’s Hardware Store popped around to her AIB neighbour with a farewell and best wishes card.

“It’s hard to say goodbye,” Casey said, with a hint of a tear in her eye. “The branch opened 30 years ago this month.

“The staff there were always lovely, like brothers and sisters to us.”

Publicans Pat and Ann Walsh had also prepared a card for the departing bank officials, all of whom will be relocated in Swinford, about 10 miles away.

“This move will take a lot of business from Charlestown,” Pat Walsh said.

“The chances are that those who go to Swinford to do their banking will also buy their shopping there.”

AIB’s corporate division has said that Charlestown, Kiltimagh, Ballyhaunis, Ballaghaderreen and Belmullet will be well served by mobile banks with An Post branches also offering banking services.

Critics of the closures, however, are neither mollified nor satisfied by these assurances with some, including Belmullet-based Erris Chamber of Commerce president Brendan Hegarty, threatening to transfer their business to another bank.

So what would Charlestown-born writer and journalist John Healy, author of the bestselling book Death of an Irish Town in the 1960s about the decline of Charlestown, say about the latest setback to the town and region?

“He would definitely shout ‘stop’,” replied Olive Durcan, from Murray’s Bar.

“The problems which the town faced in John Healy’s time can’t be much worse than at the present moment when businesses are closing and emigration is rife.”