Northern Ireland Finance Minister Conor Murphy has met with the general secretary of the Financial Services Union over recent bank closure announcements.

It comes after Bank of Ireland announced on Monday (March 1) that it would close more than half its branches in the North and a week after Ulster Bank announced it would sell its Republic of Ireland portfolio.

Minister Murphy said he was “supportive” of calls for the banks to reconsider closures during the pandemic.

‘A moral and professional obligation’

Speaking following the meeting, the Finance Minister said: “While I have no powers to intervene as the regulation of the banking sector is a Reserved Matter for the British Government, I am keen to ensure that all steps are taken to ensure access to banking and protect banking jobs.

“Banks have a moral and professional obligation to ensure access to cash through adequate ATM provision and local access to banking is readily available.

As someone who lives in a rural community, I am acutely aware of the impact of bank closures in local towns.

“I share the concerns around the loss of branches and the impact on staff and customers.

“Banks must ensure the needs of consumers, SMEs and businesses and the availability of alternative arrangements are taken into account. Not everyone has the ability to bank online.

“The Financial Services Union and Financial Conduct Authority have both already asked banks to reconsider closures during the pandemic.

“I am supportive of this call and have committed to exploring the creation of a banking forum to discuss the provision of banking services.”