RATHFRILAND Bank of Ireland customers have reacted with anger to the news that the town’s branch is to close.
One of nine branches in Northern Ireland set to close it’s doors, the branch in Church Square will close sometime later this year.
A spokesperson for the bank told the Leader, “The Rathfriland branch will close bewteen May and June this year. Customer accounts will be moved to Banbridge but we will be communicating directly with customers shortly.”
One customer, Michael O’Kane, said that he was afraid that Rathfriland was turning into a graveyard for businesses. He told us, “I was with the Northern Bank. I moved to the Bank of Ireland. Now looks like I have to move to the Ulster Bank.
“Its a disgrace that the banks in this town are closing. What happens if the Ulster Bank closes? This town is turning into a ghost town. It’s destroying businesses.”
Nicola McCarthy said, “I mainly Internet bank but a few times in the month I may get a cheque or need to withdraw more than the maximum withdrawal limit from the bank machine.
“This means that I am going to have to switch to the Ulster Bank as I’m a busy working mum with little enough time on my hands without having to run to Banbridge or Newry to lodge a cheque. It’s ridiculous!”
Clare Doherty added that she thought that the move meant that there would be “more accounts for Ulster Bank in Rathriland.”
South Down Alliance Party spokesperson, Councillor Patrick Clarke, has expressed his disappointment at the news that Bank of Ireland the Rathfriland branch.
Councillor Clarke said, “The impending Bank of Ireland closure in Rathfriland will have implications for staff and their families as well as implications for customers and local businesses in terms of quality and the accessibility of service they can expect following this announcement.
“[The branch] provides an important day to day banking service for local businesses and the wider community which both branches and their dedicated staff have served over many years.”
The closures of both branches will take place between May and June. Sadly the loss of these branches in Kilkeel and Rathfriland will be a severe blow to local businesses and the wider community and will impact on the older community who prefer to bank at their branch as opposed to online.”
In a statement announcing the closures the bank said staff affected by the closures will be either redeployed to suitable roles in other branches or businesses or become potentially eligible for existing redundancy programmes.
Sean Sheehan, Regional Manager for Northern Ireland, said: “To help deliver our strategy for Northern Ireland we are investing in a modern branch network that provides customers with easy access to banking services and is fully integrated with our online, phone and mobile channels.
“We also have to ensure that the network is cost-effective and fit for purpose. We understand that closing branches is disappointing for those who use them but the volume of business at the branches involved means they are not sustainable in the long term. We will continue to service those customers through larger branches which are being modernised and upgraded.”
He added: “The Northern Ireland marketplace is competitive and we must service our customers through a full range of contemporary and easily accessible channels. The changes we are making, particularly the investment in branches, are designed to help us develop our business in what is a core franchise for Bank of Ireland.”