A delegation of MLAs has been left ‘hugely disappointed’ after meeting with Bank of Ireland staff about the closure of branches in Draperstown and Maghera.
“This will hit many people hard, especially older people who will now be forced to travel to elsewhere to access basic banking services,” said West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan after he met with Bank of Ireland officials.
“The proposed alternative arrangements are completely unsatisfactory, as was the consultation process which lacked any meaningful engagement with the public or the staff affected. Staff, customers and businesses were left completely out of the loop as the decision was made at board level.
“Our meeting with the bank was disappointing as it appears their minds have been made up and they will not reconsider.
“They have not properly engaged with staff our customers, and have decided to prioritise profits and not the interests of staff, local people and loyal customers.”
The SDLP MLA was joined by MLAs Richie McPhillips and Patsy McGlone in a meeting with Bank of Ireland Chief Executive Officer Desmond Crowley following the announcement to close eight rural branches - including Castlederg, Belleek, Draperstown and Maghera - this autumn.
Mr McCrossan used the meeting to voice the frustration and ask for a reconsideration of the closures.
“Following our meeting with the regional director, I was not content with the answers given and the alternative proposals put forward. It was therefore important to go to the top and outline our concerns to the Chief Executive, Desmond Crowley.
“(The) meeting was, again, hugely disappointing as it appears there has been no movement on the bank’s behalf to reconsider these closures and how they will impact upon rural communities.
“The banks’ removal only adds to the increasing isolation of rural communities as services are stripped away without proper consultation.”
A spokesperson for Bank of Ireland said: “The bank is focused on ensuring its branch network in Northern Ireland is efficient and sustainable, and adapts to the evolving banking needs of a growing number of customers who prefer to bank 24/7 using its digital channels.
“We are committed to working with customers to minimise the impact of the branch closures and our priority is to ensure customers are fully aware of the alternative arrangements available to maintain continuity of customer service.
“As consultation with employees and their representatives is ongoing, it would not be appropriate to comment any further at this time.”