A delegation from the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) met with Bank of Ireland (BOI) head of retail banking, Gavin Kelly, today (Thursday March 4) to outline its views on the decision by the bank to close 88 branches in the Republic of Ireland.

Last week, Bank of Ireland announced that it would be closing a total of 103 branches in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland this year.

IFA president Tim Cullinan said: “We made it clear to BOI that this decision has been very badly received in rural Ireland.

“We previously described it as a ‘slap in the face’ and that is how people in rural Ireland see it.”

Importance of post office network

Cullinan said that in light of the recent announcement of the planned withdrawal of Ulster Bank from Ireland and Bank of Ireland’s decision to close branches across the country, it’s “clear that rural Ireland is now more dependent than ever on the post office network”.

The IFA has said that access to financial services is crucial for the economic vitality of rural Ireland.

IFA Farm Business Committee chairperson Rose Mary McDonagh said: “Farming and rural communities are disproportionately impacted by these closures since over 80% of branches are located in rural Ireland.

Furthermore, the exit of Ulster Bank further erodes the diminishing level of competition in the sector.

Bank of Ireland confirmed that it’s in talks with An Post to develop a partnership whereby withdrawal and lodgement services will be available to Bank of Ireland customers in their local post office.

McDonagh concluded by calling on the government to make the necessary investments in establishing fully-serviced community banking.