Need for a mutual bank in Northern Ireland is vital, says campaigner


A campaigner for the setting of a mutual regional bank in Northern Ireland said the closure of yet another bank in Belfast shows the vital need for a new local service for customers.

Virgin Money recently announced that its Belfast branch on Wellington Place is among 39 to be closed down by the company across the UK.

Bridget Meehan, Norther Mutual campaign member, said: “It’s just another branch closure in a series of bank closures across Northern Ireland. Bank closures are a regular occurrence here and since 2010, around 42 percent of bank branches have closed here. A breakdown of figures from Ulster Bank, Danske Bank, First Trust and Bank of Ireland shows that almost 25 percent of their branches have closed. If branches continue to close at their current rate, they will vanish from the high street entirely by 2032. 

“The banks blame the closures on customers. They say customers are doing more banking transactions online and less in branches. While it’s true that we all have mobile and online banking options today, that doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t want the option of physical branches as well. Customers still want and need face-to-face access to banking staff. If banks are being honest, another major reason why branches are closing is about cost and their desire to cuts costs. Banks are profit-driven institutions after all and they are required by law to put profits for their shareholders above everything else. 

“The Northern Mutual bank campaign wants to establish a mutual regional bank for Northern Ireland. A mutual bank is an alternative to the high street banks. It’s a fully‑fledged bank with all the services you’d expect but it’s owned by its customers not by shareholders. It is purpose‑driven not profit‑driven, putting the needs of local people, the local economy and the local environment first. And all deposits are reinvested back into the region in which the bank operates. A goal of the Northern Mutual bank campaign is to return banking services to local communities. Our proposed network of strategically-located branches means that 99 percent of the population would be within a 30-minute drive from their nearest branch. 

Ms Meehan added: “If you want to find out more about mutual banking, or if you want to subscribe to our campaign or become a supporter, please visit our website at and follow us on twitter @northernmutual.”