Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed AIB’s decision to abandon its plans to remove cash, cheque and ATM services from 70 branches across the state.
The Donegal TD described the u-turn as a victory for consumers and communities, but said serious questions remain regarding how the original decision was reached by the bank and its engagements with the Minister for Finance.
Teachta Doherty said:
“Today’s u-turn by AIB is a welcome one.
“The original decision to remove critical banking services in 70 branches across the state was the wrong one – a decision that would have abandoned local communities and vulnerable customers.
“It is clear that AIB has climbed down from these disgraceful plans in response to a groundswell of anger from customers, communities and civil society and the fact that the State maintains majority ownership of the bank.
“This needs to be a clear warning shot to government not to continue its plans to sell-off AIB shares and pass the bank into private hands.
“This shows the importance of the state maintaining ownership of and influence over AIB.
“On Wednesday I wrote to the CEO of AIB and the Finance Minister calling for this decision to be reversed.
“I spoke to AIB yesterday and made clear that this decision would not be accepted and must be reversed.
“AIB must rule out any plans to remove these critical services in the future.
“While I welcome today’s u-turn, serious questions remain regarding how the original decision was reached and the scant regard that was paid to the needs of customers, communities and vulnerable groups.
“Removing vital banking services from communities is a serious decision that impacts citizens and businesses – it is not a day-to-day business matter.
“AIB made this decision without consulting communities or stakeholders.
“We need to know what communications the bank had, if any, with the Minister for Finance or his Department in the run-up to the original decision being announced.
“As the majority shareholder in AIB, it is clear to me that the Minister for Finance should have been informed.
“It appears that the government was asleep at the wheel.
“I was also deeply concerned to hear the Taoiseach’s remarks that we are moving towards a more cashless society.
“We should not and cannot move towards a cashless society.
“Cash is secure, inclusive, ensures privacy and freedom – and it is not going away.
“We cannot rely on public campaigns to stop banks from abandoning communities and removing critical services – government must step up to its responsibilities and ensure decisions like this never happen again.”