Athlone protests Ulster Bank’s planned closure of 14 branches

AIB has closed 67 branches citing increased availability of online banking

A number of rural bodies, including the IFA and Irish Rural Link, fear as many as one in four bank branches will close leaving many rural towns and villages without any local branch. Photograph: Tim O’Brien

A number of rural bodies, including the IFA and Irish Rural Link, fear as many as one in four bank branches will close leaving many rural towns and villages without any local branch. Photograph: Tim O’Brien

 

About 1,000 people are gathering in Athlone this lunchtime to protest plans by Ulster Bank to close its Ferbane Co Offaly Branch, as well as a further 13 branches across the country in 2015.

A number of rural bodies, including the IFA and Irish Rural Link, claim they are being told to bank online – when in many cases rural broadband is patchy or non-existent.

They fear as many as one in four bank branches will close leaving many rural towns and villages without any local branch.

Speakers at a protest in Ferbane last month said the impact of the bank closures alongside the closures of schools, garda stations, post offices and pubs, was devastating local communities.

AIB has closed 67 of its branches citing increased usage and availability of online banking. Danske Bank, the former National Irish Bank, has closed more than 50 branches since 2009 and pulled out its ATMs before exiting personal banking.

Bank of Ireland said it was not closing any rural branches and while it had merged some adjacent branches in urban areas, it remains committed to its branch network. Permanent TSB announced the closure of up to 19 branches out of a total of 92.

Ferbane businessman Pat O’Callaghan said there was “shock and devastation” in the town and people would not transfer their accounts to branches in Tullamore or Athlone.

“Ferbane will leave Ulster Bank, if Ulster Bank leaves Ferbane,” he warned.

Banking facilities are to rural Ireland like roads and broadband; they are essential to survival of small towns, he added.

Ulster Bank plans to reduce the number of its branches to 111, compared to 135 when the strategy was announced in July 2013. The bank said branch transactions had fallen from 31 per cent of all transactions in 2009 to just 13 per cent in the third quarter of 2014.

The full list of Ulster Bank branches that will close in March 2015 is:

Athboy, Co Meath, with services moving to the Trim branch

Ballinrobe, Co Mayo, with services moving to the Castlebar branch

Ashbourne, Co Meath, with services moving to the Swords branch

Athy, Co Kildare, with services moving to the Carlow branch

Castleblaney, Co Monaghan, with services moving to the Monaghan branch

Castlerea, Co Roscommon, with services moving to the Roscommon branch

Clones, Co Monaghan, with services moving to the Monaghan branch

Croom, Co Limerick, with services moving to the Dooradoyle branch

Ferbane, Co Offaly, with services moving to the Athlone branch

Loughrea, Co Galway, with services moving to the Athenry branch

Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim, with services moving to the Sligo branch

Moville, Co Donegal, with services moving to the Buncrana branch

Roscrea, Co Tipperary, with services moving to the Nenagh branch

Wicklow, Co Wicklow, with services moving to the Bray branch