The government is being called on to stem bank closures in rural Ireland, following the announcement yesterday (Monday, March 1) that Bank of Ireland would be closing 88 branches in the Republic of Ireland and 15 in Northern Ireland.

The Rural Independent Group of TDs referred to the decision as a “deeply cynical move”.

One of that group, Mattie McGrath, said today: “This news is cruel and infuriating… [It’s] a hammer blow to rural Ireland, given that many of the branches selected for closure are in rural and regional towns.

We know that Bank of Ireland has one of the largest branch networks across Ireland and the planned closures represent a major shrinkage of the 257 branches it has in the Republic and the 28 it has in the north.

“Rural dwellers, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, are being forced to live in banking deserts,” he claimed.

McGrath also claimed that the “silence of the government is truly astonishing”.

“The fact that the government, who knew in advance about this announcement, would not raise it with bank management and seek a review of any such ridiculous proposals, is deeply worrying,” the Tipperary TD said.

The government, [with] a significant 14% equity stake in Bank of Ireland…must be held accountable for this decision.

This is because, McGrath argued, a stake of that size would be “viewed as being able to play a role in shaping corporate strategy”.

He went on to say: “This decision disproportionately impacts rural Ireland yet again. Many of the branches provided a full suite of bank services, including customer care and support.

“Any nonsensical argument by the government or the bank that An Post could, in some way, provide a full replacement service is delusional and unfair,” he added.

He called for a 12-month stay on the branch closures “at the very least”.