Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith has once again urged the Minister for Finance to step up immediate engagement with the Financial Services Union (FSU) and the Central Bank to ensure people can be assisted in transferring their bank accounts from Ulster Bank in a realistic timeframe before its closure.
Deputy Brendan Smith, questioning Minister Paschal Donohoe in Dáil Eireann on the matter, commented, “At the end of August, only 24% of customers had closed their accounts, which means 76% of people had yet to do so, with only 40% of the timeframe remaining. It is not practical to think this process of migrating huge numbers of accounts will be completed by the end of April next year.
“I accept that the Central Bank, which is in consultation with the two banks, cannot issue an edict, but it has to discuss what is realistic and what will happen. The last thing we need to see is accounts being closed automatically because people have not been able to meet the deadline.”
The Cavan and Monaghan TD continued: “I know some very IT-literate people who could not transfer their accounts and set up new ones online. Some of them sought and got meetings in banks. Individual officials in various financial institutions have been helpful when people have got appointments, but the banks have not provided the additional personnel to their branches that they promised to provide.”
Deputy Smith added: “I urge ongoing contact with the Financial Services Union, which has a great overview of what is happening at branch level and throughout the State. The Central Bank has indicated that staffing within the banks is not adequate and has questioned how realistic the timeframe is.
“The Irish Farmers Association also has concerns. A large number of farmers will get payments from the middle of October and many of them do not have their new accounts in place. Similarly, Age Action Ireland has expressed concerns about people who have not had the opportunity to become familiar with IT and who are not able to open accounts on a personal basis. These are issues on which the Central Bank and the Department need to keep a constant eye and vigilance,” concluded Deputy Smith.
In response, Minister Donohoe stated that the Central Bank and his Department will continue to monitor the matter closely, calling it “a very big project that matters deeply to those consumers and bank users that will switch banks”. The Minister added that AIB, Bank of Ireland and PTSB must do all they can to have the staff ready, stating that at least one of the banks is planning to be open for four Saturdays in a row to get ready for this change, but that the Central Bank and his department will continue to engage in this matter because it is the “biggest change to happen for many consumers of banking services in Ireland for a long time”.