THE closure of two AIB bank branches in the Mizen Head peninsula is a huge blow to the people of West Cork and there will be major consequences for the area, according to Fianna Fáil Senator Denis O’Donovan who is calling on the bank to reconsider its decision.
Senator O’Donovan said that the closure of the bank branches in Schull and Ballydehob presents major difficulties for local people in what is a remote area with an ageing population
Schull is some 15 miles from Skibbereen or 16 miles from Bantry, the nearest towns with bank branches while the end of the peninsula will be, which means that end of the peninsula will be almost 30 miles from the nearest branch when the Mizen branches close.
“Some people living in remote parts of the Mizen must travel by car for an hour to get to the nearest town of Skibbereen,” said Senator O’Donovan, “The Mizen Peninsula has already lost two garda stations and at a recent meeting of the group which monitors crime in the peninsula, it was noted there had been an increase in break-ins and crime on the peninsula”.
A HSE study shows that the region has one of the highest numbers of people aged over 60 in the country, which traditionally would be the age group that do not have on-line banking.
At a recent meeting in Schull, up tot 500 people from all parts of the peninsula turned out to ask AIB to keep its Schull branch open.
The bank has offered a mobile service as an alternative but many in Mizen say that a permanent branch is needed on the peninsula.
“Local people need access to the bank during business hours not just a couple of hours per week,” said Senator O’Donovan, “with cuts to rural bus services, many people will find it difficult to attend the mobile bank in such a tight time frame”.
He added, “The bottom line is that AIB owes a duty of service to the people of this remote community.
“There has been no engagement, however, and it refused to send a representative to the recent public meeting.
“During questions in the Seanad, Minister of State Brian Hayes even admitted to me that it is not acceptable for AIB to refuse to send a representative, describing it as disappointing.
“I have pleaded with the Minister to reconsider the position and at least to ask the bank to look at Schull in particular where the branch service could be retained full-time during the summer months and three days a week in the winter.
“I know these are difficult times but the proposal by AIB to provide a mobile banking service is a very weak alternative and a poor substitute,” he said.