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New law to halt the decline of ATMS in towns and villages around the country

There are currently only three retail banks in Ireland where previously there were 12.

FINANCE MINISTER MICHAEL McGrath will bring new proposals to Cabinet today to ensure there is “reasonable access” to cash at ATMs around the country.

The Access to Cash Bill due to be approved by Cabinet aims to ensure there is no further decline in the number of ATMs in towns and villages around the country.

The plan aims to restore the number of ATMs to 2022 levels, before Ulster Bank and KBC left the banking market. 

There are currently only three retail banks in Ireland where previously there were 12. 

Ministers will be briefed about how cash usage has declined.

Prior to the pandemic, just under €20 billion was withdrawn from ATMs in the State, the figure for 2022 was about €13.4 billion, a decline of just under a third.

In terms of ATM transactions, the decline from pre-pandemic to 2022 is nearly 45%, from around 156 million to 87 million per year while the average value per withdrawal has increased to €154.

Despite these changes in the use of cash, the government believes cash is still an important means of payment for many in particular older persons and low income households.

The Bill defines what reasonable access to cash is by providing that the minister shall set regulations around the criteria for the level of access to cash that should be available in different geographical regions.

The Bill requires compliance with regional criteria that set the minimum numbers of ATMs per 100,000 people, and the proportion within 10km of an ATM and a cash service point (banks or post offices).

Responsibility for compliance rests with the designated entities who will be the three main retail banks in the first instance.

Cabinet will also be given specific examples of the current level of coverage, such as 96.8% of the population in the West is within 10km of an ATM machine, while 99.1% of the population in the South East is.

Where there are locations within a region where particular difficulties arise in accessing cash, the Central Bank will assess such cases and, where warranted, may require designated entities to address the issue, it is understood. 

The legislation will for the first time require ATM operators and Cash in Transit companies to be authorised and supervised by the Central Bank of Ireland. 

Separately, Education Minister Norma Foley is bringing a Cabinet memo for information about the submission of latest action plan to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the implementation of Louise O’Keeffe judgement.

O’Keeffe successfully took the State to the ECHR for failing to protect her from the abuse she suffered at primary school in the 1970s in West Cork. 

The plan being brought to Cabinet today provides details of implementation of child protection procedures in schools and an update on the revised ex-gratia compensation scheme put in place for victims of sexual abuse in schools. This action plan is due to be published in the coming weeks.

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