Local Fianna Fáil Senator Eugene Murphy claimed Bank of Ireland had attempted use the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse for the closures and expressed his doubts as to whether An Post was in a position to “pick up the pieces”.
“The bank has attempted to justify the announcement based on a fall in branch visits over the past year. But this is hardly surprising given the entire population has had their movements significantly restricted in response to a public health emergency so the decision I feel is not based on sound data,” he said.
Senator Murphy also said the bank was “punishing customers for following public health regulations”.
“It’s a disgrace and shows complete lack of regard for its loyal customers,” he added. “I particularly feel for older members of our society who have already endured so much during Covid”.
Independent councillor Tom Crosby said the closure of both Elphin and Strokestown branches would have a negative impact on the economic survival of both towns.
“Both communities were making huge efforts in major projects, which were about to commence, in the upgrading of the streetscape and landscape in order to attract new businesses and employment, and now to be confronted with this is a major setback.
“It is critical that our local TDs and Senators arrange an urgent meeting with the decision makers in the Bank of Ireland and the Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, to, at the very least, save one of the branches,” he said.
Frank Hanly, who runs Hanly’s Eurospar in the town, said he felt the closure had been coming.
“It’s a pity but it was inevitable though really. It’s one less facility in the town especially when we’re trying to encourage as much footfall as possible.
“The ATM services will be a big loss because they were accessible for local businesses. Cash services had stopped there a while ago and so if we wanted to lodge cheques we’d have to go to Roscommon anyway.
“This closure is definitely harder on older people though because they would have used the bank the most,” he said.
Cyril McHugh, whose butcher shop on Church Street overlooks the bank, described it as a big blow for businesses in Strokestown.
“I’m very disappointed. I’ll have to close the shop to go as far as the Roscommon branch now.
“It’s bad for business too because it means there are fewer people coming up this street now too,” he said.
Bank of Ireland customers were equally despondent with local woman, Alice Brennan saying that she would now have to travel further each week.
“I’ll be going to Roscommon or Carrick I suppose. I can do banking online because I’d understand it better than my husband anyway! The bank closing means that less people will be coming to Strokestown. What’s next?”
“The machine does me most of the time but I hear that’s going as well. I’ll have to change to another account because the card they gave me won’t work in other banks’ ATMs.
“I’ll still have to go all the way to Roscommon anyway which will take me a lot longer on the tractor!
“We used to have two banks in this town and now it looks like we’ll have none in a few months,” he said.