THE Bank of Ireland is to close nine of its smaller branches in Northern Ireland, including Kilrea and Ballymoney.
They will close by June, with their activities being taken over by larger branches. About 50 staff will be affected by the move.
The other branches closing are in Ballyclare, Carrickfergus, Kilkeel, Larne and Rathfriland.
In Londonderry, the Shipquay Street and Waterside branches will be merged with the bank’s main branch at Strand Road.
This will reduce the number of Bank of Ireland UK branches in Northern Ireland from 44 to 35.
In a statement the bank said the branches which were closing accounted for about 7% of the business the bank conducts in Northern Ireland.
The staff affected by the closures and will either be redeployed to other branches or become eligible for existing redundancy programmes.
The bank’s regional manager for Northern Ireland, Sean Sheehan, said that they were modernising the network in Northern Ireland.
“We also have to ensure that the network is cost-effective and fit for purpose,” he said.
“We understand that closing branches is disappointing for those who use them but the volume of business at the branches involved means they are not sustainable in the long term. We will continue to service those customers through larger branches which are being modernised and upgraded.”
DUP MLA Adrian McQuillan says the closure of the Kilrea branch is “another set back” for people in rural areas.
“Once again people in more rural areas are paying the price.
“I understand that internet banking is becoming more popular, but people in many rural areas have restricted access to the internet and in many cases older people do not trust technology.
“This closure means that bank customers will have to travel in order to do their banking - a cost that many cannot afford in these tough economic times.”
SDLP East Derry MLA John Dallat has welcomed confirmation that the Regional Manager of the Bank of Ireland, Sean Sheehan has agreed to meet him to dis,cuss the proposed closure of one of its branches in Kilrea
He said: “This is a bitter blow to a community that has supported the Bank of Ireland since it came to Kilrea full-time more than thirty years ago.
“ I understand from my own enquiries recently that the branch was making a good profit. They are bewildered and feel badly let down and I am personally disappointed that I had to hear this bad news on the radio.
“Local people I have been speaking to since the announcement are full of praise for the staff that has served them over many years. They are gutted that this has come as a bolt out of the blue with no indication that a progressive branch was being singled out for closure.”