Minister of Finance must intervene on bank closures
The disbelief and devastation felt by customers on hearing of the news of the departure of the Bank of Ireland from the town of Kingscourt was palpable when the Celt took soundings on the ground on Monday afternoon.
It was described as a “total disgrace” and people felt angry because they had bailed out the banks during the economic crash. Many locals called on the Minister of Finance to intervene on the issue given the country had bailed out the banks.
Liz Carolan was behind the counter in her business ‘Liz’s Farm Fresh’ when theCeltcalled on Monday. She is a Bank of Ireland customer.
“I am absolutely devastated. I think it is so bad for the town. I can’t understand it. People are going to have to leave the town and, when they go out of the town to do their banking, they will also do their shopping,” said Liz who was taken by surprise with the news of the closure.
“We the people of Ireland looked after the banks and what have they given us in return – absolutely nothing! Where is the justice in that? We will be paying for that for the rest of our lives and most of our children’s lives. Now we are left without a service,” she slammed.
Businessman Sean Farrelly runs two businesses in the town - M&F Stores and M&F’s Bar. Both are closed at the moment due to Level Five Covid restrictions.
“I think it is terrible to see any business leaving the town, never mind a bank. We need every business we can hold onto to keep small towns like Kingscourt vibrant,” he said.
“The bank is certainly one of the things that brings the older generation into town and we all get a share of their business when they are here,” he added.
Mr Farrelly was hopeful the local post office could plug the gap.
“We do business here in the post office and we have found them very accommodating. We can lodge our cash in the post office. Seventy five to eighty per cent of the business coming through our shop is on cards – the day of cash is gradually slipping away. I don’t know when I last stood in a bank,” he remarked.
The businessman is also hopeful that local people will continue to shop local and support the remaining local businesses.
“In the build up to Christmas gone by, I will have to say that local people stood up and were counted and supported the small businesses exceptionally at the end of what was a very traumatic year for a lot of people,” said Mr Farrelly.
“There was a lot of people came back to this shop of mine and they had not been here for a long number of years and indeed had not shopped in the town for a long number of years.
“They had apparently been drawn to the big shopping centres – they were delighted that they returned here to shop. They were shocked at the amount of choice they were offered by all the small businesses in the town,” he continued.
“That is the way it has to go on from now – small towns will always be needed in this country. If they were to go and are not supported, rural Ireland will be finished. That will be an awful thing for this country, if that happened,” concluded Mr Farrelly.
Leo Maguire was behind the counter in his butcher shop right next door to the Bank of Ireland when theCeltcalled. He has been in business in the town for the past 53 years.
“The bank will be missed in the town, with so much industry in the area and business. Why are they taking the bank away out of the town? They did not tell us what the services are going to be in the post offices,” he said.
Local man Val Martin wondered how so many bank branches managed to survive in poorer times “when we had very little, when we were just digging potatoes in the 40s, 50s and 60s”.
He expressed a fear that there is an “outrageous crash coming”.
Mr Martin added: “I hope it does not happen. I do not want to see people in desperate poverty in this country.”
Mr Martin further accused Bank of Ireland of forcing customers online by gradually reducing services in branches and then using reduced football as an excuse for the closures.
“They forced us out. They forced me to go internet banking. I know people in this community and, generally, speaking older people who talked about the awful thing of having to use cards. Even yet, I have to be awful careful about my debit card, afraid I lose it. If I lose it, it is nearly a heart stopping affair getting it back,” said Mr Martin.
Local councillor Clifford Kelly said it was a “very sad day for Kingscourt” and for the businesses and customers who use the Bank of Ireland branch there.
“We have a number of multinational companies here including Kingspan, Gypsum Industries, O’Reilly Brothers – a massive employer here and also the Kingscourt Brick Yard. There are also lots of smaller local industries and this all adds up to a massive employment base,” he remarked.
“There is also a great farming community in the hinterland and then there is the employment of all the people working in shops and service industry and Cabra Castle.
“This decision totally defies logic in a town that is developing fast and we have a secondary school that is going to cater for 1,000 students. It is nothing short of a total disgrace,” slammed Cllr Kelly.
“These banks were most certainly bailed out. The Minister for Finance should be looking at this whole situation,” he concluded.