The members of Bundoran Town Council have unanimously agreed to seek a meeting with the senior management of AIB within the next fortnight.
Bundoran Mayor Cllr. Philip McGlynn (FF) called an emergency meeting of the council yesterday to discuss the bank’s plans to close its branch in the town. Last Friday, AIB announced plans to close eight branches in Donegal by this time next year, as part of a major nationwide re-structuring.
He proposed that the council ask the CEO of AIB and the senior management team to come to Bundoran within the next fortnight. “I think we should be asking the likes of CEO David Duffy and AIB’s senior management team to come here, take them around Bundoran and show them our strategy.
“Bundoran is totally different. The other towns have the same numbers every day, whereas we go from a population of 5,000 to 25,000 because of tourism. We are no longer a summer resort: we are busy every weekend of the year. No disrespect to the other towns but we are fighting the case for Bundoran.
“There is a lot of business being done in Bundoran. For example, I was talking with Elizabeth McIntyre and we remembered when the bank came to, as hotel operators, and asked us to pay our wages electronically. That meant 160 new accounts for them and this is the reward we get.
“The Town Council banks with AIB and that is a lot of business. We have contracts for €2m job being done in Waterworld and we have big contracts next year, for water and sewerage infrastructure, that are worth €15-20m.”
Town Manager Garry Marin said the closure of local branches is part of “a sad trend among banks to be moving towards a virtual presence. That have this mind set that banking has evolved to such an extent that people can do all their banking online and I don’t subscribe to that. There are things people can do on-line and things they can’t do.
“The implications of not having a bank on the ground have been made very clear through the recent catastrophic failure of Nat West/Ulster Bank’s IT systems. Only for Ulster Bank’s substantial physical presence on the ground, Dongel County Council could not have carried out its business. That was because of the relationships that are there, and knowing the people. As we’ve seen very recently one of the biggest banks in the world, their IT platform failed. It has happened and it may happen again.
“I agree that Bundoran is substantially different to the other towns. There is a substantial business base year round.,
“There’s a saying going around that ‘you’ve got to make a business case’ and I do think that Bundoran has a strong business case. I think Bundoran was just included in a ‘lump decision based on certain criteria but I think there is a strong argument to say, ‘you’ve got to stay doing business in places where there is a strong business base’.
“At a practical level, AIB are the bankers for the town council and closure would have a lot of practical implications. The council does a lot of business with AIB and has invested a lot in the future of Bundoran. I think that should also be put to AIB, and they should be asked to invest in that future as well.” Cllr. Sean McEniff agreed, saying of the bank’s decision to close the Bundoran branch: “It’s a disaster day for Bundoran. If they won’t come to us, we’ll go to them in Dublin”.
Cllr. Denise Connolly (FG) pointed out that the population of Bundoran has been growing and it’s a trend that the council wants to continue. “One of the most important criteria for anyone moving into a town, whether it’s a family or a business, is the facilities - garda, church, school, medical, banking facilities.
She continued: “A business in town can’t do business over the internet, you have to physically go into the bank and make your lodgments, get your change. There is no way we as a council can accept the closure of the bank. It would be detrimental for business,for tourism and for the locals alike.”
Cllr. Mick McMahon (SF) said there are “When you go up the town, there are queues and queues of people at both banks, even with the ATMs. I think it’s a step backwards and we have to get this decision reversed.”
Cllr. Sean Carty (SF) added: “I don’t know where they get the facts and figures they make these decisions on. A lot of money has been spent by the taxpayers bailing out the banks and it’s unacceptable.”
Cllr. Diarmaid Doherty (IND) said he did not believe that Post Offices could make up for the lack of a bank. “As for banking at post offices, it doesn’t work. You can’t get money out, all you can do is lodge money, you can’t do business out of a post office.”