Taoiseach Micheál Martin seeks meeting with AIB bosses after calling on bank to ‘reconsider’ making 70 branches cashless

TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has sought a meeting with AIB bosses after calling on the bank to reconsider its decision to remove cash facilities at 70 branches across the country.

ndependent.ie understands that Mr Martin intends meeting with executives from the bank, which the Government has a majority stake of just over 70pc in, next week in the wake of their surprise announcement earlier this week.

It is understood Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe may also attend the meeting with the bank.

In a statement, AIB said will meet with Mr Martin.

“AIB is aware of the Taoiseach’s comments and we are happy to engage with him,” the bank has said.

“Meanwhile the bank continues to engage with local communities. Under the plan, AIB will retain its 170 strong branch network in its entirety in communities across the country. We have deepened our relationship with An Post. Under the enhanced 20 year “AIB at An Post” arrangement, bank customers wishing to access cash can do so locally at any of the country’s c. 920 Post Offices that offer longer opening hours and Saturday opening across the national post office network. At their local Post Office, customers can also withdraw up to €1,500 in cash per day from their AIB current account and lodge up to €5,000 a week in cash.

“The average distance to a local An Post office from a repurposed branch is less than 350 metres. AIB customers will continue to have access to cash in over 4,000 ATMs nationwide, including third-party ATMs and up to 25,000 point of sale locations, most of which provide cash back.”

Speaking as he touched down in Singapore earlier on Thursday, Mr Martin said banks have obligations and a “social contract” with their customers especially those from different generations.

He said: “We are moving towards a more cashless society. But that said there are significant cohorts of people, businesses and towns across Ireland who need this facility. And I do believe the banks should take notice of this. And certainly we will engage with the banks on that.

“I think they need to consider the people who have been loyal. Some customers have been with the bank down through the years particular, more senior generations. And I think the economics for many times is a factor as well. And I do believe they should reflect and reconsider the scale of what they’re doing.”

Mr Martin’s comments come amid a furious backlash against the move by AIB, particularly in rural areas.

Age Action welcomed the Taoiseach’s intervention today.

“Age Action has been contacted by many older persons who are dismayed that they will lose access to cash services in their local area. We know that many people manage their income through cash, literally putting aside amounts of money to cover different expenses. For the many people not using the internet, it is just not possible to keep track of cashless transactions and there is a risk of getting into debt that people just can’t afford when living on a modest State Pension,” Dr Nat O’Connor, Senior Public Affairs and Policy Specialist at Age Action said.

We have written to AIB, the Minister for Finance, the Central Bank and the Irish Banking Culture Board to express the concerns of older persons about the current situation.” he added.

Fine Gael TD Michael Ring has called on bank officials to appear before the Finance Committee to explain their decision.

He said: “This latest move by AIB to cease cash facilities at 70 branches, the majority of which are in rural communities like my own, flies in the face of basic decency and has rightly generated fury amongst people in the affected counties.

“There are many vulnerable customers in rural areas who may not have the digital skills to conduct their banking affairs online, as well as businesses who may to prefer to deal in cash.

“In my own county, branches in Ballinrobe and Claremorris will be removing cash, ATM and cheque services, and this comes on top of other bank closures that have occurred in recent years.

“I now want AIB to come before the Oireachtas Finance Committee and explain the rationale behind this move, and also what their future plans are and if they intend to close or remove services at more branches.”

Earlier, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association said AIB are showing disrespect to customers.

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher said: “Bank branches in rural Ireland have become few and far between in recent years causing all sorts of difficulties, but doing away with basic cheque handling, cash, and ATM services in the ones that do remain open is taking things a step too far. The question now arises- what is a bank for?

““It is all very well saying that the typical customer can manage their banking needs online. However, this is not the case for self-employed people or people trying to run their own businesses, where there is an ongoing need to lodge cheques but also to use other banking services involving significant sums of money which are not necessarily available online.

“While An Post offers cheque lodging facilities, this is only available in some branches and the list is very hit and miss.”

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