Widespread criticism of decision to close bank
The announcement by Ulster Bank that it is to close its branch in Ballymote has drawn widespread criticism and has been described as “another devastating blow” and a “sad day” for the town.
The Financial Services Union expressed its shock at the announcement and also criticised a reduction in staffing at its Sligo branch.
The union, which represents bank staff, said the announcement is part of a 20% cull of branches across the Republic of Ireland, and the union estimates that 220 jobs nationwide are at risk.
Gareth Murphy, Senior Industrial Relations Officer with union, said Sligo will be hard hit by the scale of the Ulster Bank closures and job losses.
“This makes no sense whatsoever and will impact on customers across Sligo. Is the bank expecting the customer base in Ballymote to transfer to Sligo where they intend to have even less staff? Customers will be badly affected by these cutbacks.”
He said the union will work tirelessly to protect as many jobs as possible. “We hope we are joined in this by local communities who want to send a message to Ulster Bank that this is no way to treat loyal staff and customers in Sligo.”
Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Eamon Scanlon says the closure is “another devastating blow for the town” and he also expressed concern about the future of banking services generally, particularly in rural areas.
Deputy Scanlon said: “The decision to close the branch in Ballymote will leave many personal and business customers in the lurch, scrambling to make alternative banking arrangements.
“Many customers, in particular older people, prefer to use in-branch banking facilities rather than use phone or internet banking.”
The Ballymote-based TD said: “With more and more banks moving to close their branches, customers are facing reduced choice in who they can bank with, leaving certain banks in certain parts of the country with a near monopoly.”
Local Municipal District cathaoirleach Councillor Dara Mulvey said he was “bitterly disappointed”.
“Ulster Bank has a social responsibility to the to the people of south Sligo”, he said.
He expressed concern that business would now be more vulnerable because they will have to hold onto more cash.
The councillor also feared that people in the area will have access to only one ATM machine.
Local Fianna Fail county councillor Keith Henry said: “This is a sad day for Ballymote and the other 17 rural towns that will lose another vital service in the community. The Ballymote branch has served customers and businesses in the town and surrounding areas for decades,
“Certainly to the naked eye the bank always seemed to be busy with a constant flow of people going through the doors and I’m sure their customers are at a loss to know why their branch had to close.”
Cllr Henry believes that the closure will have wide reaching consequences on Ballymote.
“I can only hope that the customers of Ulster Bank rally behind staff in the branch to resist this change. Some of this staff may be facing redundancy as over 220 employees are to be laid off as part of the process. If this closure goes ahead it poses a number of problems in that businesses and customers cannot do simple transactions such as lodgements and withdrawals locally. These people are then going to have to go to the likes of Sligo and local shops may lose out as a result,” he said.