Union seeks TD support for pause on bank branch closures as BoI plans cull

Bank expected to announce closure of up to 100 branches next week

The Financial Services Union (FSU) wrote to TDs on Friday seeking their support to push for a moratorium on bank branch closures amid the Covid-19 pandemic as Bank of Ireland prepares to unveil a major reduction in its network next week.

The bank is widely expected to announce the closure of between 80 and 100 branches as it reports full-year results on Monday. The company has almost 260 branches, and stands out among Irish banks as not having carried out a large cull on locations in the past decade, after the financial crash.

“The UK regulator recently advised UK banks not to close branches during the pandemic as it directly affects vulnerable people in society the most. The FSU are asking you to support a moratorium on branch closures during the pandemic,” the FSU said in an email sent to TDs on Friday. “To show your support for this position I would ask you to contact the Minister for Finance directly and to post your support on social media.”

Bank of Ireland, which has the largest branch network in the country, temporarily closed 101 branches in March – almost 40 per cent of its locations – amid the ongoing spread of Covid-19. More than 80 of these have reopened, but operating hours remain restricted in a number of these.

An Post

The bank has also been in talks in recent months on using An Post to provide services to its customers. Its rivals AIB and Ulster Bank, which announced last week that it is withdrawing from the Irish market, use An Post's network to deliver certain over-the-counter banking services.

Bank of Ireland is already preparing to significantly scale back its operations in the North as a result of a strategic review, sources have previously told The Irish Times. They said the lender is planning to close a number of its 28 branches north of the Border.

A spokesman for Bank of Ireland declined to comment, saying the group would provide an update “on all aspects of our business” on Monday.