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Bank closures another massive blow to rural areas

The proposed closure early next year of 10 Ulster Bank branches across Northern Ireland is yet another devastating blow to many communities.

This decision, as with other recent bank closures in small towns, will leave many consumers, particularly farmers and small businesses, greatly isolated from their nearest bank. Elderly people unable to travel long distances will also be badly hit by these proposals.

The bank closures will result in major inconvenience for bank customers, with some facing journeys of up to 15 miles to make lodgements and conduct important banking procedures vital to their livelihoods and personal business. People in small, tightly-knit rural communities must be given tangible means of accessing financial services, otherwise the vitality of their town or village will suffer.

Regrettably, in my own locality of Co Armagh and South Tyrone, Ulster Bank branches in Tandragee, Newtownhamilton and Aughnacloy are listed for closure. Indeed, the blow will be felt most acutely in Tandragee (town population 3,500 with several large places of employment on its doorstep and a wide farming hinterland). There, the Danske Bank closed its doors just over a year ago and this now leaves no bank in the town - unfortunately this is an increasingly common trend.

Decisions taken at a high corporate banking level are hitting communities especially those in rural areas. The withdrawal of banks and services more generally from communities is a problem that must be urgently confronted by the Executive. Co-operation between all levels of government plus relevant stakeholders is needed to ensure thriving towns and villages across Northern Ireland.

JIM NICHOLSON MEP

Ulster Unionist Party

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