*Bank of Ireland’s Tulla branch. Photograph: Páraic McMahon
Three Bank of Ireland branches in Co Clare are at risk of permanent closure in the wake of COVID-19.
Bank of Ireland have closed 101 branches across the country including Kilkee, Miltown Malbay and Tulla as part of widespread changes introduced because of COVID-19. Services have been prioritised at 161 larger branches nationwide along with telephone and online banking. Officials were unable to say if the three Clare branches would reopen in the future.
A spokesperson for Bank of Ireland told The Clare Echo, “These smaller branches had seen a sharp drop in usage, and the decision also supported social distancing which can be better maintained at our larger locations”.
Contact centres and online banking has seen “a surge in use over recent months,” according to Bank of Ireland. They said the decision to prioritise larger branches is to better maintain social distancing. Some staff have been redeployed to the 161 prioritised branches.
Absence of a timeline on how long social distancing will remain in place has left the bank without “clarity”. “We therefore cannot be definitive regarding our next steps at this stage however we are closely monitoring all developments,” the spokesperson added.
Ex Clare TD, Timmy Dooley has expressed his concern with the development. “Small retail businesses are adapting to social distancing, investing money they don’t have in an effort to survive and serve their communities. Why hasn’t BOI used the past 3 months to prepare a plan to reopen branches, you were bailed out by these communities previously,” Dooley tweeted.
Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting of the Killaloe Municipal District, Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) called on Bank of Ireland to reopen the Tulla branch immediately. “There is a petition among businesses in Tulla to get the banks reopened”. He did not believe that sending people from rural areas into in Ennis or Limerick “to do basic banking” was a correct move and felt it represented an unnecessary journey and sent people from rural locations to urban settings.
Where available, Bank of Ireland have said they will continue to provide an ATM cash withdrawal service. This is missing in Tulla, Cllr Hayes outlined. “If SuperValu is closed there is no ATM in Tullla, it would be very wrong if we don’t put pressure on Bank of Ireland. There are a lot of services online but a lot of basic services rely on the banks being open”.