The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has described a U-turn by AIB on a controversial bank branch proposal as a “small but important victory for ordinary people”.

Just three days after announcing it would make 70 branches cashless, the bank announced today (Friday, July 22) that it was scrapping the move due to “customer and public unease”

AIB had cited a dramatic increase in the use of digital banking services and a decline in branch visits and cash usage as a reason for the move.

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher said the now-defunct proposal “was a tone-deaf move that was completely out of touch with what businesses and individuals need from a functioning bank service”.

“ICSA was extremely critical of this disastrous move, and I welcome the fact that AIB has realised that it is unacceptable. It is one small but important victory for ordinary people, particularly in rural Ireland.

“In some counties, the closure or effective closure of banks is forcing people to make long and unnecessary journeys to cities to conduct banking that should be done closer to home.

Environment-related taxes

“It is shocking that AIB should spend a fortune on marketing with the phrase ‘we’re backing brave’ when they have done so much brand reputational damage worth millions because they are not in tune with the needs of ordinary rural people.

“At least they can now say ‘we’re backing down’ but it is maybe time for all banks to reflect on the fact that they are not serving the needs of their customers,” Kelleher commented.

“Banks are not providing a good service. It’s all very fine saying people are happy to use online services but if you have a problem it takes too long to get through on a phone call to someone who can solve the problem.

“Banks are out of touch with ordinary people, including farmers, in terms of banking services, loans for smaller investments and general support,” he continued.

“Ulster Bank pulling out is causing chaos, but the reality is that the other two pillar banks are not stepping up to help people change their banking in a timely and efficient manner because they have been busily cutting staff numbers in branches for the past few years,” he said.

“The government needs to take a more proactive approach because a functioning banking service is critical to the economy and to the needs of the people.

“Hopefully, this will serve as a wake-up call to senior management in all banks,” the ICSA president concluded.