Anger over loss of bank

There was widespread anger in Belleek last Thursday as the branch of First Trust, a subsidiary of Allied Irish Banks (AIB) closed its doors at 2.00 pm for the last time.

There was widespread anger in Belleek last Thursday as the branch of First Trust, a subsidiary of Allied Irish Banks (AIB) closed its doors at 2.00 pm for the last time.

This leaves the once thriving village with only one bank and poses a major inconvenience and security risk to both the traders and residents of the village with the nearest branches in Enniskillen and Ballyshannon.

AIB confirmed plans earlier this year to close 51 locations throughout Ireland by the end of this year with a further 16 closing in 2013.

The Donegal Democrat visited the bank on Thursday last just as it was about to close but staff in the premises refused to make any comment.

However, Gerry McGinn, from First Trust Bank, said: “As a community bank, it is never easy to make the decision to close branches.

“We are very aware that many customers may be disappointed with this news and our staff will do everything they can to minimise any inconvenience caused.”

Commenting on the situation, Phil Flanagan, MLA for Fermanagh/South Tyrone described the closure as “a devastating blow.”

“Belleek has suffered terribly like any other town or village in Ireland from the recession and we have recently seen threats to the viability of major employers in the town.

“This decision is a further blow to the local community.”

He added that the impacts of the border “are clear to be seen” on places like Belleek, where the levels of service provision, economic growth and job creation have been very low since the partition of Ireland.

“We cannot continue carrying on the way we are and expect change to come. Overcoming the barriers of the border must be a priority for all of us if border communities like Belleek are to prosper,” he added

Popular bar owner Cormac McCosker of the Fiddlestone Bar and Lounge on the village’s Main St said, “This is a massive blow to Belleek and yet another nail in the coffin.

“I am a customer of the bank myself and this is going to have a major effect on the way I run my business. As it stands now I am going to have to make the round journey to Enniskillen to do my lodgements or any other transactions. This could involve anything up to three hours in any given day by the time you get your parking space and do your business. In business today we cannot afford that time.

“It also poses a major security risk as we will be holding on to cash for longer periods and then have to transport it to Enniskillen by car and usually unaccompanied.

“Ballyshannon is simply not an option as we are dealing with a different currency and even if I was to consider it, there would be transaction charges involved. It’s just not feasible,

“Apart from the traders here in the town I worry for the older people who have banked their for years and probably have their life savings there.

“These people are not into internet banking, many of them might not even have transport - what are they supposed to do. It is a totally unacceptable situation and a sad day for Belleek.”