Taoiseach tells AIB to "reconsider" move to make branches cashless
“They need to consider the people who have been loyal and strong customers of the banks through the years."
Micheál Martin has joined a number of prominent voices calling on Allied Irish Banks (AIB) to reconsider their decision to convert 70 of their branches into cashless outlets.
The Taoiseach commented on the move while speaking to journalists in Japan, where he is currently visiting.
"I think AIB should reflect on this," Martin began.
"I think the banks are a part of society, they've got obligations as well, in terms of the social contract.
"I understand the changing patterns of banking. Different generations approach banking in different ways.
"We are moving towards a cashless society, but that said there are significant cohorts of people, businesses and towns across Ireland who need this facility.
"I do believe that AIB and the banks should take notice of this, and certainly we will engage with the banks on that.
"They should reconsider, they should reflect on it, and I think they need to consider the people who have been loyal and strong customers of the banks through the years, particularly more senior generations.
"I think the economics for many towns is a factor as well, and I believe they should reflect on that and reconsider the scale of what they're doing."
Martin isn't the first to criticise the move to convert the branches, as publicans and politicians alike have condemned the move.
“Our members will be forced into a situation where they will have to carry cash for longer distances and then wait in larger queues as the branches that do remain open become busier," said VFI Chief Executive Paul Clancy.
“Publicans in Castletownbere will now have to travel to Bantry, a one-hour journey each way. Taking into consideration the ‘wait time’ in the branch this simple cash transaction could take upwards of three hours to complete."
A number of opposition party TDs have also blasted the move, including both Sinn Féin's and Labour's spokespeople on finance.
Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty described the decision as "a short-sighted one."
“This will effectively remove all access to cash, cheque, foreign exchange and ATM services from the branches in question.
“At a time when communities are already struggling to navigate a rapidly changing banking sector, this is the wrong decision.
“AIB again justifies a decision to reduce banking services on the grounds of reduced use by consumers – again paying little regard to the impact the pandemic had on consumers using face-to-face services."
Labour's Ged Nash condemned the decision, calling it "another nail in the coffin for relationship banking in Ireland."
"What makes it even more extraordinary is that this move was made when hundreds of thousands of Ulster Bank and KBC customers are looking for a new home for their accounts and in the middle of a government-led review into the future of retail banking.
“Monumental decisions like this impact on vulnerable customers, especially those who may not be comfortable doing transactions digitally."
The full list of AIB branches going cashless is available here.