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The Crossmaglen, Keady, Downpatrick and Banbridge  branches of Bank of Ireland are to close following a decision by the bank to reduce the number of branches throughout Ireland. 103 branches in total will be closed. The announcement has been met with shock from local political representatives.

The Bank claims that a tipping point has been reached between online and offline banking with a significant drop in physical visits to branches in the past year.

Bank of Ireland, Crossmaglen is one of the branches marked for closure. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Bank of Ireland, Crossmaglen is one of the branches marked for closure. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

A statement added that no branch will close within the next six months and that there will be no compulsory redundancies.

Political Reaction

Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady has said the announcement is a huge blow to the economy and to workers and families and will have a particular impact in rural areas.

"This announcement by Bank of Ireland is a huge blow to our local economy. My thoughts first and foremost are with the workers impacted and their families. It is always difficult to get such news but this is a very challenging time in the middle of a pandemic. This news will also be concerning for Bank of Ireland customers, over 200,000 across the north. said Mr Brady.

Mr Brady pointed out that not everyone has access to online banking and in rural areas where there are serious issues with broadband reliability this becomes a real problem. A Sinn Féin delegation will be meeting with Bank of Ireland and the Financial Services Union to discuss the closures.

Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty said "Banks are a key service to every community and their closure is a real blow to rural communities in particular.  I fully appreciate there has been a transition over recent years to where we now conduct much of our banking online, but that is no substitute for in-person banking. On many banking matters people and businesses still like and need to be able to go to their own local bank and meet bank officials face-to-face.’" 

Slieve Gullion Councillor Aoife Finnegan speaking about the Crossmaglen closure said "This announcement by Bank of Ireland is a huge blow to our local economy. My thoughts first and foremost are with the workers impacted and their families. It is always difficult to get such news but this is a very challenging time in the middle of a pandemic.

Crossmaglen Councillor Pete Byrne also expressed his concern saying  "Small businesses in Crossmaglen and the wider South Armagh area have struggled enough this year without the added uncertainty of bank closures. Not long ago, the SDLP fought to have Crossmaglen’s town status retained but what does it say to businesses and local people when the town is stripped of such a key service."

"Banks have a moral and civic responsibility to citizens especially those from rural communities who suffer from isolation in terms of access to services currently. With the level of uncertainty out there due to the pandemic, decisions like this must be parked and businesses given the space to deal with the already mounting pressures they face."

Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan commenting on Keady announcement added  "All  efforts must be made to redeploy workers and reskilling opportunities should be made available to support workers."

Keady Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon added, "This decision is a difficult day for both the communities who use these banks and indeed the staff who work within them.  But I feel this decision will hit businesses and our elderly citizens the most.  Businesses need access to banks, including night safe facilities.  Elderly citizens tend to have less access to mobile banking, not to mention the poor broadband connectivity in this area for rural dwellers.  This is a real hammer blow to our community which has now been left without any bank."  

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