Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has welcomed the announcement that AIB will not proceed with its decision to remove cash services from its Lismore, Tramore, Ardkeen and Carrick-on- Suir branches. The move was due affect a total of 70 branches across the state. The Sinn Féin council group leader warned that customers needed certainty that the U-turn is more than just a stay of execution and that cash services are here to stay.
McGuinness praised local communities for standing up for their services, and commended all those who signed petitions, organised protests and lobbied public representatives. The Sinn Féin group on Waterford City and County Council had tabled a motion calling for a reversal of the decision, and protests had been called by the party to take place over the weekend.
Cllr McGuinness said:
“I welcome that AIB have reversed their decision. This is the right thing to do. Their decision to make these branches cashless was short-sighted and poorly thought out. It would have caused major problems for customers and communities across Waterford by forcing them to travel long distances for basic services. It should never have been allowed to get this far.
“The suddenness of the initial announcement demonstrated a staggering level of arrogance and disrespect. While AIB cited increased digital usage as one reason for these changes, there are many vulnerable customers in our communities, especially living in rural areas, who are effectively abandoned when decisions like these are made. Accessing cash is a fairly basic service provided by any Bank and the loss of these services will impact on customers and businesses.
“People rightly saw the AIB decision as part of the wider running down of banking services in towns and communities righty across the state, and the trend away from accessible, offline ‘in-person’ services. Online banking is great for those who want to and are able to use it, but its not for everyone. Banks must not be allowed to ignore and disenfranchise huge swathes of the population.
“It is clear that the Future of Banking in Ireland Review is urgently required and must include close examination of local banking services, and the role of the Credit Union sector, to ensure that customers are not subjected to this unacceptable stress again.
Customers and communities across Waterford deserve to know that they will be treated fairly by their bank and that an appalling situation like this will not be allowed to happen in the future.
“The Government have evidently been caught on the hop and need to explain why this was the case. Customers need to know exactly how this debacle came about and need reassurance that it will not happen again. This means that the Finance Committee meeting on this matter must still go ahead, so that customers can get these vital answers and assurances from the Finance Minister and senior AIB figures. Sinn Féin are committed to standing up for customers to ensure that they are treated fairly and with respect.
“The Government are majority shareholders in AIB and need to assert their role in ensuring banks service communities. Our communities deserve to access services locally and to be treated fairly by these banks.
“I want to commend communities across Waterford who stood their ground and refused to allow corporate interests to hollow out the services upon which they rely. By working together and refusing to back down, they have ensured that these vital services do not leave. People power has won out.”