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Ballyhaunis now bankless

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LOCAL ANGER Ballyhaunis man Jim Higgins, former Fine Gael TD and MEP, speaking to local business owners and community representatives on Friday afternoon as the Bank of Ireland branch in the town closed its doors. Pics: Conor McKeown

Michael Commins

BALLYHAUNIS, a town with an employment of around 2,500, has been left without a bank with the closure of the Bank of Ireland branch in the town last Friday. There were emotional scenes as staff at the bank came to the door to express thanks and wave farewell to some of their loyal customers over the years.
Everyone present knew the staff had no say in the decision taken at top level in Dublin to close so many branches all over the country. The staff in Ballyhaunis were surely feeling the pain and the hurt the same as the business community and their many ordinary customers who had been so loyal to Bank of Ireland over the years.
Local Chamber of Commerce members were joined by former Mayo TD and MEP, Jim Higgins, a native of the town, to once again protest outside the premises and express the deep frustration felt by so many at what is perceived to be the cold and callous manner in which the highly paid top brass at the bank have such a lack of understanding of the social cohesion of society in general.
Tom Forde, President of Ballyhaunis Chamber, has been to the forefront of the campaign to get Bank of Ireland to reverse their decision.
He expressed disappointment with the manner in which they had been ‘insulted’ by Bank of Ireland delegates at a recent meeting.
“In September 2018, I first sent a letter of complaint requesting a meeting with Bank of Ireland. That finally took place a week ago when delegates from the bank met here locally with a delegation of industrialists and spokespersons from our community.
“We conducted a two and a half hour presentation highlighting many advantages to keeping our branch open here in Ballyhaunis only to be highly insulted by the two BOI delegates who offered no argument as to why Ballyhaunis was being considered for closure. There was a lot of anger at the way we were treated at that meeting.
“To think a successful industrial town with an employment of 2,500 and a BOI branch that has a monopoly on this business should turn its back on the community despite many reassurances speaks volumes. It is no accident that our neighbouring towns that still have branches open do so because there is also an AIB presence at these locations.
“Anybody who knows the demographics of Ballyhaunis cannot understand how our town can be left without a major bank presence.
“It is important to mention that we have no animosity towards the branch management or staff here in Ballyhaunis. They did not make this decision. We will miss them.
Ballyhaunis is a great town with many great successes. I now put it to our elected representatives to sit down with us and let’s find a solution because there is a solution and we will get a solution,” said Tom Forde.
In a letter circulated to TDs and councillors some months ago, Mr Forde highlighted the extraordinary pressures being put on so many members of the community, as well as the estimated 2,000 people who come into the parish each day to work in the local agri-industries, many of whom had to travel to either Claremorris or Castlerea to avail of banking services during lockdown.
There has been widespread support for the efforts of Ballyhaunis Chamber and some local residents to get the bank to reverse its decision and many have posted comments expressing thanks to all who fought the good fight. There has also been an outpouring of negative comments about Bank of Ireland in the aftermath of the closure of the branch in Ballyhaunis and others around the country. Eighty-eight branches closed nationwide last Friday. Two other Mayo branches were affected, also located in east Mayo, in Charlestown and Kiltimagh.