Pressure on Bank of Ireland to reverse decision to remove Irish language option on ATMs
BANK of Ireland is coming under pressure to reverse a decision to remove an Irish language option from new ATMs.
Customers in the Republic have been offered the choice of making their transaction in 'English' or 'Gaeilge'.
But the bank said new cash machines will no longer offer the option due to "low and falling demand".
The move has been described as a "backwards step" by politicians.
Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin of the Labour Party yesterday launched a petition calling on the bank to reverse the decision.
He said it "would be of little cost to Bank of Ireland but would be a significant symbolic gesture to Irish speakers right across the country".
"For many years, this Irish language option has been a very welcome addition to banking services in this country and its removal shows very little regard for those who use the Irish language daily and live in Gaeltacht areas," he said.
"The latest census figures tell us that 190,276 people speak Irish every week. Initiatives like being able to take out cash as Gaeilge are a novel way of inserting the Irish language into our daily lives."
Sinn Féin's Peadar Tóibín also said the banking sector in Ireland has been "extremely poor in facilitating Irish language speakers".
"It is impossible to get statements, online banking or any customer service in Irish anywhere," he said.
"Bank of Ireland have been unique in making an effort to simply facilitate the Irish language with the provision of ATMs with an Irish option.
"This cost, little if anything, met the needs of thousands of customers and allowed the bank to show that it values a key element of our identity."
But a Bank of Ireland spokeswoman said it was "not viable" to continue to provide the Irish language option.
She also confirmed that the service is not offered on Bank of Ireland ATMs in Northern Ireland.
"When we analyse our ATMs which provide an Irish option, we find that fewer than one per cent of ATM transactions on those devices are completed in Irish.
"Given this continuing pattern of low and falling demand, since 2010 where ATMs are replaced with newer devices across the country it is not viable to continue to provide an Irish language option on the newer machines."
She added that the bank still "supports Irish-speaking customers by providing some key services in the Irish language such as the provision of chequebooks, and withdrawal and lodgement dockets in Irish".