Active Retirement Ireland (ARI), the country’s largest community-based organisation for older people, has today (01/03/2021) responded with “disappointment” to Bank of Ireland’s announcement that 103 local branches are to close across the island of Ireland. The bank’s announcement comes at a time when older customers are feeling the so-called “digital divide” more than ever, according to the organisation.

Maureen Kavanagh, CEO of ARI, said, “Covid-19 has laid bare the extent of the digital divide for older people. Those who cannot access the internet are left further and further behind. This announcement by Bank of Ireland, coupled with Ulster Bank’s recent decision to close all their Irish operations, makes it far more difficult for the most vulnerable and isolated older people to maintain their financial independence.”

Bank of Ireland says it had agreed a new partnership with An Post which will offer Bank of Ireland customers banking services at more than 900 locations across Ireland. However, Ms. Kavanagh says this will not be enough for some older people.

“We welcome Bank of Ireland’s partnership with An Post, which will strengthen the role of post offices as community hubs, but some older people will fall through the cracks,” she said, “We do not want to end up in a situation where vulnerable and isolated older people feel they have no option but to keep sums of money in their homes, putting their own safety at risk.”

The branches closing are predominately self-service locations which do not offer a counter service, Bank of Ireland said. The branches are due to close from the end of September. The bank’s branch network in the Republic of Ireland will be reduced by 88 leaving 169, while 15 Northern Ireland branches will close, leaving 13.

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