It has been announced that 25% of bank branches in Ireland are to close in the wake of the banking scandle and subsequent economic meltdown. AIB, EBS, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and Permanent TSB are aiming to shut a total of 200 branches in an unprecedented cost-saving move. Small rural towns like Clogheen, which has a branch of AIB, are likely to be worst hit as the banks cut their number of branches from 846 to 640 in total. Loss-making branches in rural areas, will of course be first on the chopping block, thus suffering for the profligacy of the banks during Ireland’s unprecedented debt driven economic boom from 2002 to 2007.
Plans have been submitted by the banks to the Government and the Financial Regulator. This will result in thousands of jobs being lost in the banking sector and will place further strain on the country’s already ailing finances. Local branches operated seemingly profitably during the boom years but much of this lending was based on unsustainable property speculation. Many of these loans have now gone bad and banks have proven utterly rudderless when asked to be entrepreneurial, finding no creative means whatsoever to replace this utterly contrived revenue source. This, of course, means that workers and clients will suffer as redundancies are inevitable.
AIB has announced plans to lay off 2,500 people and close to 100 branches nationwide. The worry for Clogheen is that its branch, which only currently has 12 hours of banking a week as it stands, will be one of the first to go. Not only would this deprive the town of a valuable resource, but it also would take away the commercial traffic that would have visited the bank and then gone on to visit other retail outlets in the town. As Clogheen learned when its Dairygold Co-Op branch closed, this traffic is never replaced and it is a continuing downward spiral of business reduction which serves no community. This is a move aimed solely at protection of the bottom line of banks, who are largely responsible for bringing the country to its knees with unprecedented levels of greed and are, in the main, owned by Irish citizens.
Ulster Bank will close 40 out of 146 outlets, Permanent TSB will close more than a quarter of its branches and National Irish Bank will shut all 27 of its branches. AIB and NIB have already signed a deal with An Post to handle customers’ cheque lodgements and cash requirements.