Fears that temporary Donegal bank closures will become permanent
Bank of Ireland’s decision to temporarily close several Donegal branches has left the people of three towns and their hinterlands without any bank.
This is having a huge impact, particularly on the elderly and those with poor internet and phone coverage, businesses wishing to lodge takings and people who get paid by cheque.
Bank of Ireland issued a statement earlier this week advising customers that its branches in Bunbeg, Bundoran and Glenties would close temporarily. The reason given was to ensure continuity of service at its larger Letterkenny branch.
The statement read: “The redeployment of staff from the three smaller branch locations is to support colleague self-isolation while ensuring the continued operation of the Letterkenny branch, which is open today as normal following a deep clean in line with HSE guidelines.
The ATMs at our branches in Bunbeg, Bundoran and Glenties will continue to operate for withdrawals only. Customers can continue to use the nearest branches which are located in Dungloe or Falcarragh (for Bunbeg), Ballyshannon (for Bundoran), and Donegal Town or Dungloe (for Glenties).”
Barry Gallagher, Head of Bank of Ireland for County Donegal, said: “Throughout this pandemic, the safety of our customers and colleagues has been our top priority. Today, we have had to make some temporary changes to our services in Donegal to support colleague self-isolation while ensuring the continued operation of the Letterkenny branch. We are following in full the advice of the public health authorities, and I’d like to apologise for any inconvenience to our customers arising from these temporary changes.”
But looking at the bigger picture for these towns, they now have no bank at all. And many people are fearful that the banks will not reopen at all.
Cllr Michael McMahon (SF) said it was outrageous that Bundoran could be left without any bank.
“I think this government are neglecting us,” he said. “The people of Bundoran have put so much work into developing tourism and services in the town, but it feels like a case of one step forward, two steps back.
“We are already fighting to hold on to our two fire stations in Bundoran and Ballyshannon. We are trying to get broadband for businesses. This latest issue with the bank is a kick in the teeth.
“They say it is temporary but when a closure like this happens it is very hard to take it back.”
Cllr McMahon is calling on all politicians to get involved and stop this situation.
“This bank has made huge profits and the people have helped them out. Those people deserve better.”
These sentiments are echoed in Glenties where the Community Development Group are also lobbying politicians to get involved.
Brian Carr told the Donegal Democrat: “There is no bank at all now for the towns of Glenties and Ardara.
“If you need to go to the bank, you can travel 25 minutes to Killybegs, 25 minutes to Donegal Town or 25 minutes to Dungloe. And that is only if you have a car. If you are relying on public transport you have to get a bus to Donegal Town in the morning and come back in the evening, so you would need a full day just to go to the bank.”
Mr Carr expressed concern for the safety of people who now have to hold on to takings from businesses, where previously they could deposit them in the night safe.
“You have to keep them at home and then you have to drive to Dungloe to lodge them,” he said. “There is a big safety concern with that.
“It is the same for elderly people who like to lodge money from their pensions rather than keeping it all in the house. They can’t do that now.
“Not everyone can do their banking on their phone.
“These decisions are made by people sitting a desk in Dublin. They don’t see the consequences for people in rural Donegal where there is virtually no public transport.”
Mr Carr suggested that even a few days a week opening - to include Friday for pensioners - would be better than the current situation.
Bank of Ireland is advising that its customer service team is available on 0818 365 365.
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