Addressing a rally in Athlone today (Fri) in support of banking services for rural Ireland, IFA President Eddie Downey said the Government has a responsibility to support rural communities being abandoned by private banks.
Today’s rally is in response to the decision by Ulster Bank to close its branch in Ferbane, Co Offaly. The IFA President said the Government owns the An Post network and AIB bank and they will have to step up and provide banking services following the decision of some commercial banks to abandon rural communities. “There is an onus to ensure the country’s 500,000 householders and rural businesses have access to necessary services that are vital to economic activity.”
Eddie Downey said the situation in Ferbane was a replica of what has happened to too many rural towns around the country. “The Government cannot stand idly by and deprive rural Ireland of essential services. A banking service that allows businesses to develop and grow is essential and the Government is in a position to help address this issue”.
The IFA President said the decision by financial institutions such as Ulster Bank to reduce their branch network is leaving many rural communities without a banking presence. He added, “A strong case exists to retain the Ulster Bank in Ferbane. I understand that there are approximately 4,000 accounts in the bank that depend on the service. It is not acceptable to close this branch and expect customers to travel over 20km to the nearest branch in Athlone – this decision must be reviewed. The community of West Offaly cannot be left without a bank”.
Eddie Downey called on the Government to re-affirm their commitment to maintain a vibrant rural economy by fully implementing all of the recommendations of the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas and supporting the call to safeguard a nationwide banking network.
Concluding, the IFA President said other rural issues, such as fibre broadband to every home, rural security and the maintenance of rural roads must be key policy objectives for the Government.