Independent general election candidate, Gerry Loftus, has reacted angrily to reports of the sale of cash machines and more post office closures.
"It has been another disastrous week for the people of rural Ireland" - those are the words of founder of Ireland's Future and Independent general election candidate, Gerry Loftus. He was speaking in relation to the news that Bank of Ireland and AIB are planning to sell over 1,000 ATMs.
It has been reported that BOI is seeking bids for 700 machines, while AIB is considering the sale of 375 cash machines from retail outlets - some of which are in rural Ireland. "This will have a massive impact on services provided to people in rural communities," Loftus warned.
"People could now be faced with long distances to avail of cash as a result of this. For example, people in the far end of Belmullet may have to travel to Ballina or Westport, as ATMs in most retail outlets are going to be sold off. This is an 'untellable' blow. Ulster Bank has already sold off 400 ATMs to US giant, Euronet."
Loftus stressed that it is very likely that charges for services at ATMs, that are acquired by private enterprises, will now increase. He highlighted that he has been in contact with the Irish Postmasters' Union, which estimates that from 2021, 200-400 post offices in all areas of the country may become unviable and face closure.
He said: "This is because a pillar of the 2018 Post Office Network Renewal Plan has not been delivered on by this Government, where a commitment was made to introduce more services to post offices to keep them afloat, but this has not happened. As we know, post offices are obliged to deliver a mail service network; they are not obliged to deliver financial services."
Loftus previously ran a campaign when a series of post offices faced closure and made proposals to Government at the time, to introduce community banking - similar to what has been implemented in New Zealand and Germany, for example.
He said: "Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael blatantly refused to agree to something like this. This type of system would provide more services to people in rural Ireland. This is crippling the people of this country and is now becoming an election issue, because the Irish Postmasters' Union has requested that, I, Gerry Loftus, as an independent candidate, make it an election issue.
"I will do my utmost to get the idea of community banking back on the table and whoever forms the next government must commit that this service will be provided to the people of rural Ireland in order to get their vote in this election."