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AIB should 'reconsider' decision to make 70 branches cashless, says Taoiseach

The branches will no longer offer cash or cheque services and if they have an ATM outside, it will be removed.

Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Jul 21st 2022, 4:11 PM

TAOISEACH MICHEAL MARTIN has said AIB should reconsider its decision to remove cash services from 70 of its branches.

In an update posted on the AIB website yesterday, the bank said that they were planning on removing cash and cheque services from the banks starting in late September.

Speaking to RTÉ News, the Taoiseach said banks had obligations under a social contract.

“Different generations approach banking in different ways. We are moving towards a cashless society, but that said, there are significant cohorts of people, businesses and towns across Ireland who need this facility.

“They should reconsider, they should reflect on it,” Martin said. “They need to consider the people who have been loyal and strong customers … in particular more senior generations.”

Some 70 branches will no longer offer cash and cheque services either at a counter within the bank or through a machine within the branch.

The first 36 branches will end these services on 30 September, followed by 34 more on 31 October.

Alongside this, if any of the 70 branches have an ATM outside the premises, this will also be removed.

The branches will no longer have coins, notes, cheques, foreign exchange or bank drafts on site and will be removing all drop and night safes.

AIB say that they are cutting these services due to “falling levels of cash usage and cheque transactions” and the increased use of digital and card payments.

Letter to FF party members 

Fianna Fáil TD James O’Connor has written to members of the parliamentary party, seeking their support for an emergency meeting with the Minister for Finance over AIB’s decision.

O’Connor said an emergency meeting was warranted with the finance minister, stating that there has been outrage and frustration about AIB’s decision to withdraw a substantial proportion of its community banking services.

“This is particularly concerning for vulnerable service users and small businesses who rely on cash services provided in bank branches. I have grave concerns about how this move will impact enterprise on our main streets and in rural Ireland,” he said. 

O’Connor noted that Bank of Ireland has already begun the process of closing down 88 separate bank branches.

“The departure of Ulster Bank from the Irish market along with AIB and Bank of Ireland’s closures/withdrawals will leave a significant number of large rural settlements and suburbs of our cities with no banking services,” he said. 

“Like many, I acknowledge that digital banking and new platforms such as Revolut are changing how consumers save and spend money. However, we must also acknowledge that cash services remain vital to many SMEs in our economy.

“I do not feel it is acceptable that we as a party would allow the banks to go unchallenged in their latest efforts to curtail community banking services,” said O’Connor in his letter.

Separately, TD for Cavan-Monaghan Niamh Smyth said she has written to AIB to express her disappointment at the move. 

She said the bank’s decision will impact loyal customers, stating:

The removal of these services and ATM’s will have a detrimental affect on these towns. I have asked for a meeting with AIB on this issue and will keep you posted on all developments.

TD for Laois-Offaly Barry Cowen said his party members feel the need to insist on a meeting with the finance minister so as to ascertain what the reaction of the major shareholder will be. 

The State ended up with 99.9% of AIB after bailing out the entire Irish banking sector following a massive property crash more than a decade ago.

Earlier this year, the Irish government raised 305 million euros through the sale of a 5% stake in the bank.

Cowen said there is “obvious discontent and outrage” at the decision announced yesterday, stating that it will have a big impact on some parts of the country. He said the fears people have in these constituencies have not been addressed.

Fine Gael TD Michael Ring has also called for AIB to come before the Oireachtas Finance Committee next week. 

He said the “latest move by AIB to cease cash facilities at 70 branches, the majority of which are in rural communities like my own, flies in the face of basic decency and has rightly generated fury amongst people in the affected counties”.

“There are many vulnerable customers in rural areas who may not have the digital skills to conduct their banking affairs online, as well as businesses who may to prefer to deal in cash.

“In my own county, branches in Ballinrobe and Claremorris will be removing cash, ATM and cheque services, and this comes on top of other bank closures that have occurred in recent years.

“What the banking bigwigs fail to realise when they are making these short-sighted decisions is the detrimental impact they have on rural people, who now face long journeys to get to a branch if they wish to access cash services,” he said. 

Ring added that he wants to see Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and the other service providers come before the committee for a meeting before the August Bank Holiday next week to outline their intentions when it comes to any further changes to branch services. 

There has been widespread condemnation of the move by AIB from political parties across the spectrum.

Age Action has also raised concerns about the announcement and the impact it will have on older people living in rural Ireland who may have no modes of transport or assistance to get to the neighbouring town where cash will be available.

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