IFA Countryside Chairman Brian Rushe said Bank of Ireland’s announcement on branch closures is very disappointing news for rural communities.

“This comes as a slap in the face to rural communities who rely on local branches for banking services. We estimate that over 80% of the branches identified for closure are in rural locations. The withdrawal of this vital service will discommode those without internet access and people whose preference is to do their banking in person.”

Bank of Ireland will close 88 of its branches from September, reducing its network by one third. Bank of Ireland, which has the largest branch network in the country, temporarily closed 101 branches in March – almost 40 per cent of its locations – due to COVID-19. The bank has been actively engaged in a review of its operations.

Worryingly, the branch closure programme disproportionately targets rural Ireland, with the bulk of branch closures in rural locations. Brian Rushe said IFA will be seeking an urgent meeting with Bank of Ireland senior management to raise the unfair targeting of rural Ireland with the closure programme.

Similar to AIB and Ulster Bank, the bank has signed a deal An Post which will allow personal and business customers to use their local post office for certain services, including withdrawals and lodgements.

Mr Rushe added that research from the UK has shown that the closure of just one branch reduces lending to the local community by some 64%.

This announcement is another hammer blow to the provision of banking services in Ireland following the recent confirmation that Ulster Bank plan to exit the Irish market.