Bank deleveraging should not alienate local communities – Senator Reilly
Speaking in the Seanad, Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly has called on the Minister for Finance to review the restructuring of banks to ensure that as they deleverage, they do it in a way that does not alienate local communities and leave them without vital services.
Senator Reilly said:
“Clearly there is a need for banks to reduce in size. Given the excessive growth in our banks during the boom years it would be naive to expect them to not undergo significant restructuring. However, the process of deleveraging agreed between the Government and the Troika must not leave communities, particularly in small rural areas, without adequate provision of banking services.
“Given the volume of public money that has been pumped into our banking system, there is a social responsibility on bank chiefs and the Government to ensure that the restructuring of our banks not only makes commercial and economic sense, but also social and community sense.
“I am calling for this as I see the potential impact of recent bank closure announcements in towns in my own county: Belturbet, Killeshandra and Kilnaleck.
“Apart from the inconvenience which these closures will cause to the customers of Ulster Bank in the affected locations, there is a more worrying dimension in terms of the provision of banking services in rural areas. We need to consider the “bigger picture” and particularly the impact on many rural areas where the lesser alternative of online or mobile banking may be difficult due to connectivity problems.
“The government must wake up to the ramifications for rural Ireland of the closure of small banks, particularly the fears of local residents in areas where Garda stations have already been closed. We are seeing the withdrawal of vital economic services from communities which have already been negatively affected. For businesses; the transportation of cash for deposit over long distances can pose a security risk. Similarly, people keeping money in their homes could make themselves a bigger target for thieves.
“Worryingly, the closure of these branches marks the loss of yet another vital service from our rural towns and villages. The value of the services provided by these local banks cannot be underestimated. They are of the utmost importance for business and individuals in the town and are particularly useful for those who do not have the facilities to travel to larger towns.”