Bank of Ireland was facing a backlash this week following proposals to restrict cash withdrawals and lodgements in its branches.
The changes proposed by Bank of Ireland, if implemented, would have meant customers would no longer be allowed to withdraw cash with the help of a teller unless the amount withdrawn exceeded €700. Likewise, lodgements of up to €3,000 cash would have to take place via the ATM lodgement facility.
There were fears among local councillors and the public that such changes will have a negative impact for senior citizens and for business in local towns and villages. Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser, Independent Councillor Kevin “Boxer” Moran said: “Take an ordinary woman or man that comes in from the country to buy school books or clothes and the least amount of money they can withdraw is €700, that is going to have a huge impact on rural crime.
“We have a Government rolling out high powered cars to tackle rural crime, but if you have people bringing home €700 it will boost rural crime. The message Bank of Ireland are sending out is that they don’t want people in their bank if they cannot use an ATM card. That is not the way to deal with people.
“I understand that the bank is trying to do its job and save money, but when they were in trouble and needed help the people of Ireland helped them. The knock-on effect of what the bank is proposing will stop people coming into their local town and there will be a serious knock-on effect for local business.
“People will do their banking online and will not visit their local town or village to spend a few bob, and that is the worry I have. People are gutted that the country is on a small bit of an upturn on one hand, but then they are getting hit like this on the other. Some businesses are not feeling the knock-on of the upturn being felt in Dublin, Cork and Galway. If Bank of Ireland do this my big fear is that it will spread to other banks.
Fianna Fáil Councillor Frankie Keena said: “It is going to have a serious knock-on effect for senior citizens and for voluntary community groups. I am involved with groups locally. There is a lot of financial pressure on those groups, who operate on a wing and a prayer with fundraising and collections. The lodgements they make are generally small so the new regultions if brought in will have a huge effect on them.
Senior citizens are another worry. We do not want to be encouraging senior citizens, particularly those in rural areas, to be keeping money in the house and under their beds. That will undoubtably put their security in question. The line that has been taken by the bank will force some people to do that, and I think that is a sad situation for those people to be in.”
Fine Gael Councillor John Dolan said: “I think the banks have to take it on board that there are a lot of people who are not computer literate and will never be, and I think they are just as important as the next customer. There are a couple of banks that have gone down the route of computerisation and machines, but there is no substitute for dealing with a human being.”