Thursday, July 21, 2022

By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has called on AIB to “reconsider” its plan to remove cash services from 70 branches across Ireland, as Sinn Féin called for the Minister for Finance to comment on the issue.

There has been sharp criticism from across the political spectrum of AIB’s decision to stop all cash-and-cheque services across 70 of its branches from this autumn.

This means notes, coins, cheques, foreign exchange, bank drafts will not be available in these branches, and ATMs outside the branch where services are changing will be removed.

Speaking to the Irish media in Singapore, the Taoiseach said: “There are significant cohorts of people, businesses and towns across Ireland, who need this facility, and I do believe AIB and the banks should take notice of this.”

He said the Government would be engaging with the banks on the issue.

Micheál Martin called on AIB to ‘reconsider’ its plan to remove cash services from 70 branches. Photo: PA

TDs and Senators from both the Government and Opposition have criticised the move by AIB.

Speaking on the plinth at Leinster House, Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin called on Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe to make a statement about the withdrawal of cash services from AIB branches.

“The idea that a bank that has received almost 21 billion euros of taxpayers’ money, that is 60 per cent owned by the State, would treat the public in this way, I think, is shocking.

“What’s even more outrageous is Paschal Donohoe, the Minister for Finance, who is responsible for the State’s interest in this bank, is yet to make a comment on it.

“We need to hear from Paschal Donohoe. We need to hear what his view of this is, and what he’s going to do to convince AIB to reverse this decision.

“The Minister shouldn’t need me to tell him that he needs to make a public statement on the matter. He should have been out in advance of this.”

‘Back brave’

Paraphrasing an advertising slogan of AIB, Fianna Fáil senator Timmy Dooley said: “AIB purports to back brave, but it’s clear from this decision all they’re backing is their own profit margins.

“By removing cash services from branches, they are leaving rural businesses and rural people in the lurch as they force them to either make more use of online services or to drive long distances to lodge or access cash.

“Cash services are to be removed from their branches in Shannon, Ennistymon, Kilrush, Killaloe and Kilkee. This means a business owner they purportedly back to be brave will be forced to travel around an hour to access cash services in Ennis.”

Fine Gael TD Michael Ring said of the decision: “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 big wigs 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.”

Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín said: “Our banking sector is in complete disarray with the withdrawal of KBC and Ulster Bank.

“The market is over concentrated in the hands of just a few operators. This gives the remaining banks enormous supplier power and now they can do what they want.”

An Post welcomed the announcement by AIB on Tuesday, saying that its 920 branches are continuing to offer the services that AIB has withdrawn six days a week. This includes cash, foreign exchange, and cheque services.

A national advertising campaign with the message ‘Your bank is in your local post office’ is under way, it said.

Thirty-six AIB branches will go cashless from September 30th, with a further 34 AIB branches going cashless from October 22.

A full list of the branches affected by these changes are available on the AIB website.

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