IN a sign of the times, Bantry Credit Union has purchased the Bank of Ireland premises in the town.
The prime piece of real estate – located right next door to the credit union on Wolfe Tone Square – closed last September, much to the anger of the bank’s customers. The €400,000 purchase will give Bantry Credit Union an impressive footprint on two streets – Wolfe Tone Square and William Street.
Banking customers feared their services would be severely curtailed when Bank of Ireland closed its branch after nearly 50 years, but in its place Bantry Credit Union has expanded its range of services to include online and mobile account access, debit card payments and SME lending.
The number of credit union members has grown considerably too, and there are 13,000 member-customers throughout Bantry, Beara, the Sheep’s Head and surrounding areas.
The closure of the Bank of Ireland branch in Bantry, along with 102 others, including the Dunmanway branch, as well as the rescinded decision to cut cash transactions at AIB branches in Dunmanway and Castletownbere, continues to be a cause of concern.
However, the chairperson of Bantry Credit Union’s board of directors Eddie Mullins has expressed confidence about the future of Bantry Credit Union, saying the purchase of the Bank of Ireland building is an expression of that confidence.
Mr Mullins said the credit union is committed to maintaining a physical presence in towns and cities.
‘The whole of West Cork and the country is furious with the banks pulling out of rural Ireland,’ added Finbarr O’Shea, manager of Bantry Credit Union, ‘and reducing their levels of service, so our decision to buy the building shows we are here to stay.’
The building went on the market in March with a guide price of €280,000 but there was considerable interest in the large building, which is centrally located in the commercial heart of the town, and a short but intense bidding war with another business ensued.
‘Three years ago, we did a major facelift of the Bantry office,’ said Finbarr. ‘It was necessary at the time but it reduced customer space.
‘The key value to us is that our new premises – right next door – will allow us to expand our range of services and provide our members with greater comfort and consultation rooms.
‘There is no doubt that it was a big step, but it was also a no-brainer,’ said Finbarr. ‘And our board of directors firmly believed it was a sound business decision.’