Bank closures are damaging the rural economy and making it harder for the self-employed to conduct business, president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) Dermot Kelleher has said.

Kelleher criticised the Government for failing to leverage its stake in the major banks - which is 71% in AIB and 13.9% in Bank of Ireland - to defend rural interests and push back against the closures of banks.

A move from physical to online banking, as suggested by the banks, is not feasible for many given the poor internet connection speeds of many rural areas and the nature of business in farming communities, such as the still widespread use of cheques to make payments, the ICSA added.

“Already in 2021, we have seen announcements that Ulster Bank is gradually closing down its business in this country. Bank of Ireland announced the closure of 88 branches earlier this year and many of these are in rural areas,” Kelleher commented.

“There is no post office in all of east Cork apparently geared up for banking services,” he claimed.

The roll-out of the National Broadband Plan was quoted by the ICSA as being essential for online banking to become an option for rural dwellers.