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Three Clare Bank of Ireland branches are to close as part of a decision to shut 103 networks on the island of Ireland.

Kilkee, Miltown Malbay and Tulla will see their Bank of Ireland branches shut from the end of September. No compulsory redundancies will be issued as part of the move to shut branches nationwide.

An underlying loss of €374m has been disclosed by Bank of Ireland reflecting the hit it experienced on impaired loans during the pandemic.

A decline in the use of branches have been experienced, Bank of Ireland stated when publishing its annual results for 2020. “We will continue to operate 182 branches across the island of Ireland. The branches will be an integral part of the Group’s strategy of blending physical and digital services to meet our customers’ evolving needs”. €12m will be invested in the remaining branch network by the end of 2022.

There has been a new partnership agreed with Bank of Ireland an An Post that will offer customers banking services at more than 900 locations across Ireland. This will include over the counter cash and cheque lodgements and cash withdrawals, with longer weekday opening hours than traditional bank branches as well as Saturday opening. Bank of Ireland said the closing branches all have a post office within, on average, less than 500 metres.

Last year, concern first emerged that the Bank of Ireland branches in Kilkee, Miltown Malbay and Tulla would become victims to the pandemic. They reopened in June but were among 101 branches that shut due to the pandemic.

Senator Timmy Dooley (FF) told The Clare Echo the closures were a blow to the respective communities in the county. “Older people and the business community will be disproportionately impacted by the decision. For older people many prefer to go into their branch and deal with people rather than use online banking. The retail, business and hospitality community will be very seriously impacted as they will have to travel much further now to lodge money in county towns – which in some cases could lead to them keeping money on premises or in their homes, creating further risks of burglaries”.

Dooley added, “While the bank’s partnership announcement with An Post is welcomed to facilitate Bank of Ireland customers in the areas affected, the onus to protect and maintain the post office network in rural communities is now even greater”.

Closures for Kilkee, Miltown Malbay and Tulla were called “hugely disappointing” by Senator Martin Conway (FG) “and this follows on from the Ulster Bank announcement”.

Deputy Michael McNamara (IND) recently flagged the matter in Dáil Éireann warning that adverse affects would be felt in each of the three Clare areas. “They are the branches that were closed and reopened in a limited capacity following the previous lockdown. The State still has a 14% shareholding in Bank of Ireland. We bailed out Bank of Ireland, and now it is bailing out on us. It will result in elderly people, in particular, receiving a reduced service and businesses receiving similar. At the same time that is happening, various Departments hold their accounts with Bank of Ireland. As I said, there is a 14% State shareholding in Bank of Ireland”.

New uses for the buildings need to be considered, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar (FG) stated. “The decision to close any branches is obviously one for the bank. It is not a decision for Government nor one that requires Government approval. While nobody likes to see a bank branch being closed, we all need to acknowledge that the world has moved on in terms of banking. The number of people who set foot in a bank branch now is a fraction of what it was ten or 20 years ago. We need to think about how we can use these iconic buildings, which are often in villages and main streets, for a new purpose that will involve footfall”.

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