One Fine Gael TD says post offices and credit unions should take over rural banking if the banks themselves are not prepared to do it.
Michael Ring, Fine Gael TD for Mayo, was speaking as Taoiseach Micheál Martin called on AIB to reconsider its plan to make 70 of its branches cashless.
Mr Martin said although we are moving towards a cashless society, AIB needs to consider the needs of older people.
“They should reconsider, they should reflect on it.
“And I think they need to consider the people who have been loyal and strong customers of the banks down through the years, in particular more senior generations.
“And I think the economics, for many towns, is a factor as well.
“I do believe they should reflect on and reconsider the scale of what they’re doing”, the Taoiseach said in Singapore.
Deputy Ring told The Hard Shoulder: “This decision taken by the bank is galling, it is a decision taken at the wrong time.
“Here’s the banks that we spent €42bn… the taxpayer of this country, the customers of the banks.
“And this is what the banks do to them: they try and take away the services.
“There’s many people that want the ATM machine, there’s many people that still use cheques.
“And there’s small businesses all over rural Ireland that are still dealing in cash.”
He says action needs to be taken by the Government.
“You go and try to open a bank account in this country, it’s like trying to get gold out of the bank.
“It’s not easy and it’s not right.
“And if they have a licence, and if they’re not prepared to do it… it’s time Paschal Donohoe, it’s time Michael McGrath and it’s time the Central Bank gave the powers to the post offices and the credit unions.
“If the bank’s don’t want to do the business, let’s give a bit of resources to the post offices and to the credit unions and let them do this business”.
Deputy Ring is calling on stakeholders to answer questions before the Oireachtas.
“I think it was a disgraceful decision, taken now this week when the Dáil is not sitting.
“That’s why I’ve called on that we bring them before the Finance Committee next week: AIB, the Minister for Finance, and also it’s time that the Central Bank had a part to play in this.
“They’re the people that licence the banks, and if the banks are getting licenced they must be getting a licence under certain conditions.
“One of the conditions is that they must serve the customers, and the people that are their customers”.
Seamus Boland, CEO of Irish Rural Link, says the system and people are not ready for this.
“It’s too soon, it’s not prepared and it’s simply not going to work.
“Most rural business are small, they’re depending on cash a lot of the time.
“People living out in the rural areas, the older people, who have still not come to grips with the whole digital world of cash and banking.
“The way they see it, this is 70 closures and that’s another blow to a rural area”.
Seamus adds that the ideas behind the move could have merits in the future, but not now.
“These are all laudable places to be – a digital cashless society and less emissions – that’s what we all think is probably the future.
“But we’re not in the future yet.
“And the reality is that services in rural areas are simply closing all of the time without the alternative replacement.
“And that’s what’s galling and that’s what’s annoying about this decision”.