By Kieran O’Mahony & Dylan Mangan
AIB’S shock decision to remove all cash, ATM and cheques services at branches in Kinsale, Dunmanway and Castletownbere in October has been branded a ‘disgrace’ and another ‘nail in the coffin’ for rural Ireland, with calls to fight the decision.
From October 21st AIB will no longer have notes, coins, cheques, foreign exchanges and bank drafts at these three West Cork branches. ATM machines will also be removed from outside, which is seen as a huge inconvenience to business owners and the general public.
In a statement, the bank said the branches will focus more on account opening, financial planning, mortgages, loans, savings and investments.
The bank said that customers will be able to access more cash and cheque services in the country’s 920 post offices.
This is a further blow to Dunmanway which already saw the closure of its Bank of Ireland branch last year, and AIB customers in Castletownbere will now have to travel to Bantry to avail of services.
Cork South West Independent TD Michael Collins described the move as ‘another kick in the teeth to rural communities.’ He said it will likely lead to the closure of these branches soon and he said it ‘illustrates the Government’s lack of support for a rural banking model.’
‘This government can’t stand idly by and let this happen as the people of this country bailed these banks out before. Cash services are crucial to SMEs and farmers, who rely on depositing cash in banks for security,’ said Deputy Collins.
Ann Marie Cronin, who runs a photography business in Castletownbere, described the move as a ‘disgrace’ and urged people to fight for its reversal. She also pointed out that card machines do not always work in some areas due to poor connectivity.
Frank Keane, owner of artisan chocolate business Koko in Kinsale, who has banked with AIB as a business for 32 years, also branded the move a ‘disgrace’ and said he is considering closing his account and moving to a different bank.
‘There needs to be a mass protest in the form of businesses closing accounts and hopefully a movement can be started. They say there is another option in the post office but sometimes it’s quicker to drive to Bandon than to go to the post office in Kinsale,’ said Frank.
Ann Marie added: ‘If people don’t fight it we may as well turn off the lights in rural Ireland. Where are all the businesses expected to get their coins and cash now? The nearest branch to us will be in Bantry, which is an hour away,’ she said,
‘Losing our ATM machine is a disaster too and I can’t understand why they won’t leave it here. We have one in SuperValu but that closes at 9.30pm and there is a limit to what you can withdraw from it. Where are the elderly expected to get cash or coins too? Cash is still a legal tender too.’
Cllr Sean O’Donovan (FF) lambasted the move by AIB for Kinsale and said this will affect the older community more who he said are again losing out to technology and on-line services.
Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) said it would have a detrimental impact on Dunmanway, which already lost its Bank of Ireland branch last year and called for AIB to reconsider this move.
‘It’s a slap in the face to rural communities who rely on local branches for banking services. It will impact greatly on those who don’t have internet access whose only option now is to travel long distances to their nearest branch,’ said Cllr Hurley.
‘I am calling on AIB to seriously reconsider introducing such an unfriendly method of banking for its customers and I call on them to show more loyalty to the town and community that has supported them so well over the decades.’
Cllr Deirdre Kelly (FF) said she would fight for the retention of these banking services in the town and said it shows no regard for staff and locals who have been loyal to AIB over many decades, while the town’s Chamber of Commerce said people will now be forced to travel to Clonakilty and that Dunmanway will not have a 24hour ATM machine or night lodgement.