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Matthews Reiterates Calls for Bank of Ireland Units to be repurposed as community hubs

Date: 2 November 2021

Green Party TD - Deputy Steven Matthews has written to Minister for Finance – Pascal Donohoe, seeking support for his proposal to repurpose the recently vacated Bank of Ireland premises in Carnew, Tinahely and Rathdrum into community hubs. Deputy Matthews was speaking following the submission of a parliamentary question raising the issue directly with the Minister. Discussing the proposal, Deputy Matthews said:

“This is an issue I first brought up in the Oireachtas Finance Committee in March when the news broke that 3 Bank outlets would be shutting their doors in Wicklow. At the time I asked could the deadline be extended, or the decision be reconsidered given the potentially negative knock on impact that the closure may have on these rural towns in particular.

“What I have asked the Minister is to consider engaging with senior Bank of Ireland officials to support the creation of Community Hubs in the premises they have vacated. This will require a cross departmental approach if it is ultimately implemented but in the first instance – I have asked if he could engage directly with management to put the idea forward. The proposal would tie in with the huge amount of community work ongoing by Wicklow County Council and would be a welcome meeting point for many services and groups that they support.

“I will also be raising this in person with him next week in the Dáil and I hope that he will be open to the suggestion and to potential funding options that I will be putting forward. The damage to the main street is visible in towns and villages across the country and the loss of a bank to a town/ village is a serious concern for many residents and business owners in adjacent premises who benefit from the proximity to a busy hub.

“To repurpose these units would be a relatively low cost when compared to the potential benefit for the community if the facilities to work remotely, host community meetings and generally inject life back into the town are installed. This is an issue that goes beyond Wicklow with 88 units being recently vacated by Bank of Ireland nationwide. Not all these units will be suitable to be turned into a community, but I believe the 3 vacated units in Wicklow would be ideally suited and welcome additions to the main street. I will be suggesting to the Minister is that Wicklow be considered for pilot community hub scheme, using these 3 vacated premises, and if successful then it could be broadened out further.

“To leave a vacant unit in the main streets of these three rural villages would be a missed opportunity to invest in our rural areas. I have been fortunate to work with my government colleagues on a number of funding streams for rural Wicklow in recent months and I hope that this initiative can receive the necessary backing and I will continue to push for this proposal to be progressed, concluded Deputy Matthews.

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