“Another slap in the face for rural Ireland” is how the closures last Friday by Bank of Ireland of 88 rural branches, including four in Westmeath – in Kinnegad, Moate, Castlepollard and Athlone (AIT) – have been described this week by Labour’s Cllr. Denis Leonard. He has also called for the community banking model to be seriously considered.
“This means that Westmeath, with 90,000 people, will only have two bank of Ireland branches, in Mullingar and Athlone,” he said, with the Midlands region devastated, by 11 Bank of Ireland closures, three each in both Offaly and Laois and one in Longford, in Granard. He pointed out also that the withdrawal of ATMs meant that many people in rural communities no longer had 24/7 access to cash.
“Our Bank of Ireland branch and only bank in Kinnegad, closed last Friday after years of service to the local community. With visible queues right down the street during lockdown you could see exactly how many customers were using local banks on a daily basis. “The Westmeath closures have left local customers having to travel significant distances to their local branch on a very poor public teapot network. It means a journey of 20 km for both Kinnegad and Castlepollard people to the nearest Bank in Mullingar, and Moate is 16 km from Athlone,” he said.