Loss of bank 'a great blow' to Laois town and business sector

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Loss of bank 'a great blow' to Laois town and business sector

The Bank of Ireland branch in Rathdowney, Laois

The loss of the Bank of Ireland branch is a "big blow" to the town of Rathdowney in Laois, according to two local business people.

Entrepreneur Bernie Moloney is owner of the Rathdowney Retail Hub, the former outlet centre which is also set to house an enterprise and broadband hub, employment training facility and farmers market.

"It is a big blow. If an ATM is not allowed to remain, that would be a great inconvenience for people," she said.

In all three Laois branches will close, all in the south and west of Laois, including Mountrath and Durrow.

"There should have been more spread, this means that our nearest branch is Abbeyleix. That will be quite difficult for a lot of people, particularly older people," Ms Moloney said.

She believes the loss of banking branches is bad for businesses in general.

"The problem with banking is there is no real personal connection any more between business people. It is all online. That is not good for business. You put in an application for a loan and it's faceless. Sometimes you have to sit opposite someone who knows your background so they can drive an application forward for you. It's too easy to be rejected. That is more of a worry.

"People will get used to going to a post office but when it comes to personal and business loans, you need a face in the bank. You can't lose that face to face contact and knowledge on the ground, it's very damaging for lending and financial advice. Online is fine for lodging and withdrawing, people adapt," Ms Moloney said.

 Mark Kirwan has an accountancy practice Kirwan Bain & Co, beside the Bank of Ireland branch.

"We are naturally very sorry to see it go, it will have a big effect on the town. Vivien was the main man there and he will be very much missed. He was old style in his approach, really customer orientated, and his staff too. It was like banking used to be back in the 80's. We will miss his personal touch. He made time for everybody," Mr Kirwan said.

There remains an AIB branch in Rathdowney and the accountant is sure it will stay.

"I am not concerned, there are only two branches in Laois, the other in Portlaoise. There are only two in Kilkenny and one is on High Street in Kilkenny. Parking is a huge problem so most people in North Kilkenny come to Rathdowney to do their banking, it's a big branch so when they closed Mountmellick, Portarlington and other places they left Rathdowney open.  I am confident it will stay open," he said.