Bank of Ireland to close eight branches in Northern Ireland

Up to 54 redundancies may come as a result of the decision

Bank Of Ireland College Green Dublin . Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Bank of Ireland is to close eight branches in Northern Ireland later this year, a move that could result in up to 54 redundancies.

This represents about one-fifth per cent of its branch network in Northern Ireland, with it continuing to operate from 28 locations offering integrated online, phone and mobile banking.

The bank said the volume of business in the branches that are to close was “insufficient to sustain them in the long term”.

They account for about 6 per cent of the business conducted by the network in the North.


"The decision to close branches is not taken lightly, and we understand that it will be disappointing for those customers who use them," said Sean Sheehan, regional director of NI consumer & small business at Bank of Ireland UK. "A key priority will be to ensure customers understand the alternative arrangements available, and to maintain continuity of customer service.

“We are responding to the continuing shift in customer behaviour towards increased use of digital and online channels, and the changes announced today will put us in the best position to continue to support our customers’ changing needs and grow our business in the future.”

The branches to close are located in Castlereagh, Draperstown, Antrim, Belleek, Castlederg, Newtownards, Maghera and 1 Donegall Square South, Belfast (City Hall branch).

The City Hall branch will become the bank’s first enterprise lounge in Northern Ireland, offering entrepreneurs and business start-ups free facilities and services.

Staff affected by the closures will be able to transfer, redeploy or relocate to other roles within the bank or apply for voluntary redundancy, the bank said.

The eight branches will close on a phased basis starting in the late autumn of this year.

Bank of Ireland said it would write to individual customers affected by these changes at least 60 days before their branch closes.

The bank’s branch network in the Republic is not affected by the announcement.

The Financial Services Union, which represents affected staff, has challenged the closures.

Larry Broderick, general secretary of the FSU, said the decision was "regrettable" and "irresponsible" given the impact it would have on customers and staff.

“Given that Bank of Ireland is expected to announce significant [half-year] profits at the end of the month, this announcement is a kick in the teeth for both customers and staff in Northern Ireland who supported the bank during the financial crisis,” he said.

“At a time when the union is discussing with the bank the impact of existing workloads on both staff and customers, this announcement is a retrograde step which is more focussed on cost cutting and enhancing profits rather than customers and staff.”

The FSU said it would begin negotiations with the bank tomorrow and would challenge the closure plan. “Although the bank has confirmed that all redundancies will be voluntary, the union calls on politicians to support its campaign to challenge this decision in the interest of all stakeholders and the wider Northern Ireland economy.”

The branch closures mean that Belleek will lose its last remaining bank.

Bank of Ireland’s operation in Northern Ireland forms part of tis UK retail division.

In its 2015 annual report, Bank of Ireland chief executive Richie Boucher said its full service bank in Northern Ireland "continues to progress with business loan demand increasing as the economy recovers".

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock is Business Editor of The Irish Times