‘Move towards cashless society hitting rural areas’

The move towards a cashless society is happening at a speed that is not working for rural areas, said Macra na Feirme national president, Thomas Duffy.

He was speaking amid reports that just over 1,000 ATMs are being sold by two of the country’s largest banks.

“It punishes rural people who may have to pay higher fees to access cash through third party ATMs,” said the Macra president.

Not all merchants such as taxis or rural bus lines offer card payments, requiring cash to utilise the services, increasing the overall cost.

In a separate statement, Sinn Féin TD and general election candidate for Sligo / Leitrim / south Donegal and north Roscommon, Martin Kenny, said the reported plan by Bank of Ireland and AIB to sell off ATM cash machines is causing anxiety in rural communities.

The TD called on the government to intervene in the situation via the Central Bank to get clarity and to ensure that banks live up to their obligations to the community.

“Plans by the AIB and Bank of Ireland to sell off ATMs across the state is causing deep concern in rural communities,” Deputy Kenny said.

The banks have already closed bank branches in towns all over the country and have withdrawn important services.

“The news that they are now going to sell off ATMs is more bad news for bank customers.

“It’s more evidence that the banks are failing to invest properly in infrastructure,” the TD contended.

“People are now rightly worried that if these ATMs are bought over by independent operators, consumers will face more expensive charges for transactions.

“Rural communities will be affected most by this ATM sell-off and are potentially facing much higher transaction charges,” said Deputy Kenny.

People have already seen so many local post offices close. Elderly people in particular are worried by this latest development.

“The government needs to intervene in this situation via the Central Bank to get clarity on the plans and to ensure that banks live up to their public service obligations to the community.”

Pat McDonagh, founder and owner of Supermacs, said his view was that the sell-off is a commercial decision being taken by the banks, with reduced ATM usage and the ATMs a security risk in some areas. Part of the move towards a cashless society, it will inconvenience some people for a while, he contended.

“In rural areas, people are still very attached to cash,” he said.