December 2014 marked a change in Irish society, the small community of Ferbane in west Offaly decided to rally together to stop the closure of their Ulster Bank branch. Over a thousand people from the locality turned out on the streets to show their commitment to Ulster Bank with a further show of solidarity scheduled for Friday 23th January in Athlone. (See www.Ferbane.ie for more details)
Ulster Bank have previously stated it would not close a branch in a town where it is the only Bank. Ulster Bank must honour this statement; the impact of such closures has a devastating effect on rural communities such as Ferbane. The residents of Ferbane and the surrounding areas have built a 94 year relationship with Ulster Bank that must be retained.
As outlined in the previous blog by John Akja –Nwachuku, there have been a significant number of banks closed around rural Ireland as a cost saving measure (https://irishrurallink.ie/index.php/component/k2/item/9-inviting-banks-to-give-back-to-communities). Such closures can be considered understand given the economic climate at the time but the Irish economy is set to be the fastest growing economy in the upcoming year (http://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/ireland-to-be-fastest-growing-euro-area-economy-in-2015-1.2062814). It is time for banks to repay the loyalty shown to them by their customers. One argument for the closures is that people are mostly doing their finances online while that is the case in some areas; it is simply not true for rural areas. This is largely down to a lack of high speed broadband and adequate training for elderly people especially.
Forgetting the social responsibility Ulster Bank has to the local residents, the closure of the branch will have an effect on security and accessibility to their finances. The removal of the local bank will have a negative impact on local businesses resulting in them being forced to travel a greater distance to conduct their financial transactions, costing them time and money. The closure of the Ferbane branch will mean account holders will have to travel to Athlone to conduct their transactions which is simply not possible for some given the inefficiencies in public transport within the locality. The closure will result in customers withdrawing larger amounts of money, making them vulnerable to criminals. The statistics from 2013 showed that the number of violent burglaries on elderly people has significantly rose in the past decade, further closures will likely add to this statistic. Ulster Bank Ferbane has over 4000 accounts on their books and remain profitable which makes us ask the question why close the branch?
Irish Rural Link supports the BIG SWITCH campaign “If Ulster Bank leaves West Offaly; West Offaly will leave Ulster Bank”. If Ulster Bank continues to not to honour their promise of not closing a branch in a town where it is the only bank, we will encourage all consumers of Ulster Bank to switch to its competitors. “If Ulster Bank leaves Rural Ireland, Rural Ireland will leave Ulster Bank”.
To lend your support to the Stop Ulster Bank Ferbane Closing campaign you can:
- Phone Ulster Bank Freephone 1800 283 062 (lines open 8am to 10pm Mon to Sun)-
o Insist that they Honour their Commitment to keep open branches in towns without another bank
o Let them know the impact of closure on you, on your family, your business etc.