By Kieran O’Mahony and Jackie Keogh
THERE are real fears that the closure of the Dunmanway Bank of Ireland branch will have a major impact on the town after what has already been a difficult 12 months of trading, due to Covid.
That’s according to Helen O’Reilly, chairperson of Dunmanway Chamber of Commerce who said the closure of the bank is a ‘devastating blow.’
‘If people have to travel to another town to do their banking then it could take business from here. For a rural town, we don’t need any more customers leaving and possibly doing their shopping in other towns. Elderly customers will also have difficulties now.’
Helen is also critical of what Bank of Ireland have said about the drop in footfall at various branches over the past 12 months.
‘People haven’t been able to go out due to Covid and that includes the elderly people more so, and you can’t use that as an indicator about footfall.’
Helen said they will be contacting their public representatives to push for a reversal of this decision and while the post office will be used for banking, she still sees it as another closed building in the town centre
The sentiment was similar among Bantry’s business community. Eoin Deasy, owner of Coen’s and The Newtown Pharmacy, said: ‘The closure of a major banking entity will have an impact on businesses and customers alike.’
Tony McElhinney of The Card Shop added:‘It will be a great loss to the town. We need to retain as many services as possible in order to give people choice.’
SD TD Holly Cairns said the closures mean people will have to travel to Bandon, Clonakilty, or Skibbereen for in-person banking services: ‘Where is the consideration for the impact this will have on local business, local lending, and indeed customers for whom online banking is not an option – especially considering the poor internet in many areas of the constituency. Not to mention the lack of public transport connecting these areas.’
Senator Tim Lombard described the move as ‘a slap in the face’ for all people who kept the bank going over the last few decades.
‘There was no consultation whatsoever with the business people or residents of Dunmanway.
‘Dunmanway is one of the towns that always needs help and support as it hasn’t thrived in the tourism industry like other towns in West Cork and because of that taking out of one of its financial institutions will have a real impact on the town.’
Sen Lombard said it’s the ‘wrong message’ for Dunmanway and instead of putting development in the town, it’s going backwards.
‘There’s also an economic and social impact with this decision. Some of the staff will be transferred to Skibbereen or Kinsale and it’s tough on these staff too who now may have to travel longer distances to get to work.’
At a meeting of the West Cork Municipal District Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) alleged that banks have, for years, been actively ‘hunting people out the door.’
He said: ‘They will have to be stopped. This is no longer private business since the day we bailed them out.’
Cllr Paul Hayes (Ind) said the State owns 14% of Bank of Ireland and between 2009–2011 received €4.8bn in State funding.
‘We have a vested interest in the bank. It’s important that they be retained for elderly people because online banking isn’t for everyone.’
Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF) agreed that they should write to the chief executive of the bank, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance, and the Minister for Public Expenditure because a lot of customers will now be an hour’s drive from the nearest branch.
Cllr Karen Coakley (FG) described the move by the Bank of Ireland as ‘an attack on rural Ireland because we will be back in the era of putting money under the mattress and crime will rise as a result.’
Cork North West Fianna Fáil TD Aindrias Moynihan said older people will be disproportionately impacted by this decision.
Sean Sherlock, Labour Party, Cork South West said regional development cannot happen if basic services such as banks move completely online. ‘Equally, local bank branches are not simply a place for financial transactions but an engagement with the local community helping local business to grow, a valued community support to community groups and sporting organisations. That ethos now vanishes.’