Business

Finance minister asks banks to pause branch closures for 12 months

Finance minister Conor Murphy. Picture by Hugh Russell.

FINANCE minister Conor Murphy has urged the main banks in the north to stop all branch closures for at least 12 months.

It's understood the Sinn Féin minister made the direct plea in writing to the lenders on July 23.

Mr Murphy confirmed the move in a letter to the Irish Financial Services Union (FSU), seen by The Irish News.

It followed the latest round of branch closures announced by AIB and Danske Bank during July.

AIB is due to close eight of its 15 Northern Ireland branches on November 12 2021, while Danske Bank will close four branches on October 22.

The closure of Danske Bank's branches in Ballygawley, Hillsborough, Mallusk and at University Road in Belfast, will bring to 50 the number of outlets the lender has closed in the north since 2010.

Bank of Ireland closed nine branches across the north in a two-week period over June and July. Six more branches in Ballymena, Banbridge, Crossmaglen, Derry, Keady and Strabane are due to close before the end of the year.

All the lenders have cited falling footfall in branches against a backdrop of the growth of online banking.

The FSU has urged Stormont to use its influence to pressure the banks to pause their closure plans to facilitate the establishment of a banking forum.

The union said the forum will enable a public debate over the future of banking.

It's understood that the Department of Finance is currently working with the FSU to develop the forum.

Conor Murphy said he previously raised his concern over branch closures during a roundtable discussion with the main banks in March 2021.

Writing to the FSU, the finance minister said: “Danske Bank and AIB were both present at this meeting. I have today written to them both, and the other main banks here in the north, to call on the sector to stop branch closures for at least 12 months as the FSU has suggested.”

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