CHALLENGES Publican Dick Byrne said he was facing a regular trip to Tuam if cash services at AIB in Claremorris stopped. The bank made a rapid u-turn last week. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
MAYO TD Rose Conway-Walsh has cautiously welcomed AIB’s decision to reverse the closure of cash facilities in Claremorris, Ballyhaunis and Ballinrobe, adding that rural Ireland is not ready for a cashless facility.
The state-owned bank reversed the decision to close cash services – including facilities in Claremorris and Ballinrobe – after huge public outcry.
Government and opposition TDs in Mayo have welcomed the reversal of the decision, citing the impact it would have had on rural communities.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday (Monday), Deputy Conway-Walsh called on the Central Bank to act to ensure that existing banking services remain in place.
AIB’s decision follows the withdrawal of Ulster Bank from the Irish market and the closure of three Bank of Ireland branches in Charlestown, Ballyhaunis and Kiltimagh in recent times.
“I really resent the fact that people were put under such stress, albeit that it was only for a number of days, but particularly elderly people,” the Sinn Féin TD said.
“What I’m hearing from people is that people aren’t ready for a cashless society and particularly people in rural areas,” she added.
“The banks, who everyone bailed out, need to listen to that.”
RETIRED Ballinrobe businessman Tony Walkin told The Mayo News that there was great concern among elderly people over the potential withdrawal of banking services.
Mr Walkin said that banks in towns like Ballinrobe, which lost its Ulster Bank a number of years ago, had lost their personal connection with customers.
“I know when I came to Ballinrobe in 1962 the personal contact with bank staff and bank managers was absolutely fantastic. You could always go and chat to them,” he said.
“All that’s gone now. There’s no such thing now, you talk to a machine in the wall.
“The way it’s going now, nothing counts in the banks any more only profits for their shareholders - which is understandable, I suppose – but the rural community is forgotten about,” he added.
Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh also expressed concerns at the lack of human interaction in banks, many of which have moved to automated services.
“People need to be able to interact with a human being and people need to be able to be in control of their own finances and their own cash. If they can’t do that I just don’t know where we’re heading,” she said.
“People are certainly are getting used to not using cash. It isn’t just confined to older people…. but it will take a lot of time before we get a place where we have a cashless society. In the meantime we can’t just dump people. We can’t just ignore the very big need of people to have cash.”
Claremorris pub-owner Dick Byrne said he would have had to make a round trip to Tuam to access full banking services in AIB if the controversial move had gone ahead.
“If you wanted to lodge money you’d have to go to the post office to lodge money into the AIB, which was an awful hindrance altogether. Everybody could see your business,” he said, referring to the AIB’s proposal to transfer cash services into post offices.
Fine Gael TD Michael Ring said AIB had shown ‘utter disregard’ for the government in the manner in which they announced the decision.
“Let this be a warning to big banks and businesses in this country that they should think twice before they attempt to strip services away from our rural communities in the future,” Deputy Ring said.