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One of Ireland’s biggest banks has been criticised over its decision to remove cash services from 70 of its branches.
Allied Irish Banks (AIB) announced earlier this week that counter staff at those branches will no longer deal with cash, cheques or bank drafts.
In addition, cash machines and night safes will be removed from the buildings.
Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Micheál Martin called on AIB to reconsider the move as many people, particularly older customers, still need cash facilities.
AIB said it had made its decision in response to “falling levels of cash usage” and the rising costs of providing cash services, including security costs.
“With digital usage soaring, the cost of providing cash services has become increasingly unsustainable,” a company statement said.
It intends to implement the changes between 30 September and 21 October, after which point the 70 branches will switch their focus to mortgages, loans, financial planning, investments and new accounts.
The company has 170 branches across the Republic of Ireland, 22 of which are already cashless.
The plan would mean that more than half of AIB’s Irish branch network would be cashless premises if fully implemented.
However, AIB has expanded its links with An Post, the Irish postal service, and pointed out that there is an existing post office in the same town or village as most of the branches affected.
Several politicians have expressed concern over the plan, and 40 members of Mr Martin’s Fianna Fáil parliamentary party have requested an emergency meeting with the minister of finance.
Michael Ring, from the Fine Gael party, described the plan as “callous” and said it had “generated fury” among affected customers.
The Vintners Federation of Ireland also expressed concern over their members facing longer journeys to deposit takings.
Michael O’Donovan, chair of the federation’s Cork branch, told Irish broadcaster RTÉ that roughly 40% of pubs’ business is conducted in cash.
Speaking in Singapore, the taoiseach warned about the economic impact in the towns affected, saying “a significant cohort of people” still need access to cash.
“AIB should reconsider and reflect on this and consider the people that have been loyal down through the years, particularly the more senior generations,” Mr Martin added.