Belfast Telegraph

Bank union chief calls for talks with Wilson over closures

By Clare Weir

A union leader is calling for an urgent meeting with Finance Minister Sammy Wilson over an ever-growing number of bank branch closures.

Last week it emerged that Bank of Ireland has decided to shut offices in Ballyclare, Ballymoney, Carrickfergus, Larne, Kilkeel, Kilrea and Rathfriland, along with Shipquay Street and Waterside in Londonderry.

Irish Banking Officials Association general secretary Larry Broderick said that the latest closures will bring the total number of bank branches and sub-offices closed in Northern Ireland since 2008 to close to 60.

He said: "The announcement from Bank of Ireland follows similar announcements by Ulster Bank and First Trust Bank in the last six months.

"Danske Bank's (Northern Bank) subsidiary has also engaged in some restructuring of its branch network since the banking crisis began in 2008.

"The danger is that large parts of Northern Ireland - especially in rural areas - may be left with a much reduced or inferior facility. While I have no doubt that a business case can be advanced for each branch closure in its own right, it is vital that consideration is also given to the totality of the transformation that is happening on an incremental basis in Northern Ireland's banking sector.

"We believe that the Minister for Finance would like to know how the overall landscape of banking in Northern Ireland is changing from the perspective of the customer as well as the staff and to consider what, if any, steps can be taken to promote the availability of an acceptable level of effective service to customers, irrespective of their geographical location."