ULSTER Bank has been accused of “abandoning” rural communities with news that another branch in Fermanagh will close its doors next summer.
Irvinestown is one of 11 branch closures announced by Ulster Bank as more of its customers are opting to use digital banking services.
The move will reduce its total number of branches to 44 with just two remaining in Fermanagh – in Enniskillen and Lisnaskea.
The company said it will be seeking 40 voluntary redundancies as a result but it’s understood that staff based in Irvinestown will be redeployed to other outlets.
The local branch will close next May or June and Ulster Bank will contact customers individually with details of alternatives such as the post office.
Unlike Belleek which saw the closure of the last bank in town in March, Irvinestown will still be served by a Danske Bank branch.
ARC Healthy Living’s CEO Jenny Irvine told the Herald that Irvinestown had seen extra footfall following the closures in the past five years of the former Northern Bank in Kesh and Dromore’s First Trust and Ulster Bank outlets.
“We would be concerned that these people will no longer be bringing their business to Irvinestown when they come to do their banking.
We still have Danske Bank and I would hope that it continues to remain in the town,” she said.
Sinn Fein Cllr John Feely says his party has requested a meeting with Ulster Bank to discuss the closure further.
He added: “Although Ulster Bank have placed an emphasis on online banking this is not always viable, particularly with weak broadband service and for those who aren’t as familiar with computers.”
SDLP Councillor John Coyle says the move proves that rural communities are being abandoned: “Rural areas should be seeing more services delivered locally not less.”
UUP Cllr Diana Armstrong said: “When dealing with large organisations whether public or private I often get the impression the policy of reducing rural branches and services comes first and it is not difficult to ensure the viability figures back up the policy, rather than putting effort into making these vital community services profitable.”
Erne North DUP Cllr David Mahon added: “Irvinestown is a thriving town in a rural area and it will impact upon businesses that would have previously used the services close by.
“It is important that they are made fully aware of the situation in order to prepare for the eventual closure.”
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