Local Ulster Bank closures a ‘bitter blow’ to rural communities

November 24, 2014

Ulster Unionist Party South Armagh Representative Councillor David Taylor has expressed his severe disappointment at Friday’s announcement from Ulster Bank that its branch in Newtownhamilton is due to close in February 2015, with services moving to the Newry branch.

The rural branch is one of 10 Ulster Bank branches across Northern Ireland which will close by February next year. A further 13 branches throughout the Republic are also earmarked for closure.

The news came a day after the bank’s group was handed the biggest ever fine for the 2012 IT meltdown that left 700,000 customers unable to use their bank accounts for three weeks.

Councillor Taylor described the announcement as a “bitter blow” to Newtownhamilton and said he was very concerned at the “profound and serious impact this closure will have on existing customers and indeed the Newtownhamilton area in general.”

“The loss of this important banking facility will no doubt have a detrimental effect on the local community, particularly to those with small rural and agricultural businesses.”

Although Ulster Bank have confirmed that no staff will be made redundant as a result of the closures, Mr Taylor said it was important to consider the upheaval for staff who will have to relocate.  The UUP Councillor said he intended to raise his concerns directly with Ulster Bank.

Echoing Mr Taylor’s sentiments, local Sinn Féin councillor Barra Ó Muirí said he would be raising the issue at the next full meeting of the Council and said the closure would affect a large section of the south Armagh community.

“Many of those who have contacted me about the closure announcement are angry that Ulster Bank have shown very little loyalty or duty of care to them as  customers. The excuses the Bank have given for taking these actions are feeble,” said the Sinn Fein councillor.

His Sinn Féin colleague, Newry & Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan accused Ulster Bank of showing “very little respect for rural communities” and encouraged all affected customers to contact the Bank to register their disapproval.

Meanwhile SDLP Newry & Armagh MLA Dominic Bradley described the closure of Newtownhamilton Ulster Bank and the Tandragee branch as “a huge blow to the community.”

Mr Bradley said that while some banking services may be available at post offices, “there is no substitute for a local branch, particularly for small businesses who will now have to deal with a reduced banking service.”

“This will be a huge blow to the community,” he said adding,

“As we all saw during the technical crisis experienced by Ulster Bank during the summer of 2012, the importance of having a fully staffed branch at times of emergency or crisis is vital.

“Tandragee and Newtownhamilton are vibrant communities with many local businesses who rely on Ulster Bank. I am disappointed that Ulster Bank is showing so little social responsibility to rural communities. The people of Tandragee and Newtownhamilton deserve better.”