AIB is showing complete disrespect for its customers by announcing that cash, ATM and cheque services are to be removed from 70 of its branches, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA) president Dermot Kelleher has said.
The move, Kelleher added, is taking things a step too far.
“Bank branches in rural Ireland have become few and far between in recent years, causing all sorts of difficulties, but doing away with basic cheque handling, cash and ATM services in the ones that do remain open is taking things a step too far. The question now arises - what is a bank for?” he said.
Customers of these branches, both business and personal, he explained, will no longer be able to access cash or cheque services at the counter or through machines inside the branch.
These branches will neither accept nor dispense notes, coins, cheques, foreign exchange or bank drafts and will remove any drop safes and night safes, he added.
"If there is an ATM outside the branch, it will also be removed, affecting not only AIB customers, but all residents and visitors to the area by denying them access to cash.
"This will seriously undermine the economies of small towns and rural areas," he said.
Kelleher stressed the point that not everyone is au fait with online banking.
"It is all very well saying that the typical customer can manage their banking needs online.
"However, this is not the case for self-employed people or people trying to run their own businesses, where there is an ongoing need to lodge cheques, but also to use other banking services involving significant sums of money which are not necessarily available online," he said.
While An Post offers cheque-lodging facilities, this, he said, is only available in some branches and the list is very hit and miss.
Kelleher argued that the Government is ignoring the relentless dismantling of banking services in rural Ireland, particularly as the State remains a major shareholder in AIB.
“A lot of effort and expense was put into saving the banking sector in this country and the Government’s commitment to rural Ireland will be measured by how much they are willing to see banking services decimated in rural Ireland," Kelleher concluded.