WHAT HAVE modern day bankers and the James Gang of another time got in common?
Hardly a question for a Leaving Certificate or Third Level exam as the little ones in first or second class in primary school would possibly, make that probably, know that.
The James Gang, Jesse, his brother, Frank and fellow outlaws robbed banks, stagecoaches and trains during their reign of terror that lasted from 1866 to 1876.
They wore masks, rode horses and emptied the pockets of the rich in particular.
A misnomer was that the boys were akin to Robin Hood and his Merry Men, who, folklore tells us, robbed the rich to help the poor.
There was nothing philanthropic about the James Gang. The loot went into gang members’ funds and to Hell with anyone who was left with nothing but holes in his or her pockets.
It is not hard to see where the common ground is between the masked lads outside the bank counters and the masked bankers inside those counters at pandemic time.
The banks are certainly not and never have been philanthrophic and, like the James Brothers they are ruthless when dealing with their clients on mortgages, loans etc, call the latter customers for pseudo respectability.
We could go on.
But why bother?
JOINED A RELIGIOUS ORDER
As a young journalist I interviewed a retiring bank manager who, a widower in his senior years, who swapped caps and joined a religious order.
He told me he was going into religion to atone for the sins he committed as a bank manager.
Anyway, our focus today is on the despicably dirty deed that the Bank of Ireland has just inflicted on rural Ireland in particular.
Politicians started the rot. Army barracks were closed; Garda Stations were barricaded and many that remain open are merely venues for a local Garda, if there is one, to collect the post.
Farmers are under huge pressure because of the hardship piled on them by Government, particularly with regard to Climate Change.
As a result of strings of closures, austerity and deprivation, pubs, the only social centres in many parishes, are hanging on for dear life.
Many of the latter have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana skin.
Post offices have also been clattered, meaning that pensioners and others have to travel, in some cases several miles, some having to hire taxis, to neighbouring parishes to collect miserable social protection offerings from the State.
Could things get any worse, Kilkenny Press asks today?
A BRUTAL HAMMER BLOW
Sadly, the straw that may break the camel’s back is the closure of 88 branches of the Bank of Ireland (BOI) throughout the 32 counties of Ireland.
Slap, bang, wallop, a brutal hammer blow, a signature of a posh executive or a decision of a board of finance means that our country has been deprived of over a third of its BOI branches.
Oliver Cromwell didn’t do as much damage when he landed here in 1649.
He murdered our people, ransacked churches and torched family homes.
Not a single shot was fired on a not so Good Friday when the shutters went up on what are now ghost branches.
Perhaps it was the banking world’s cruel way of saying thank you to our people for bailing it out.
Thanks for nothing might well be its cynical message.
The bank should consider changing its logo to a two-fingered salute.
For the latter is exactly what BOI gave to our rural communities in particular as it followed up the axing of staff in many branches in recent times and replaced human beings with money-guzzling machines.
The bank, we suggest, has shattered thousands of families and local businesses, good customers for perhaps generations but at the end of the day treated like you would dump a handkerchief after blowing your nose at Covid times.
Other banks have been just as cruel to our people, locking the doors, directors donning their top hats and heading for goldmines, oil fields or wherever there is a quick buck.
To be fair, Allied Irish Bank still appears for the most part to be treating our people with the respect and dignity they deserve.
However, it too brought out the hatchet recently when it signaled its intent to close15 branches mainly in urban and suburban areas.
Branches that remain open, however, are manned and wo-manned by friendly humans as opposed to self service machines, a la some of our supermarkets and other stores who would appear to be set to lighten any possible losses by setting up machinery to replace man and woman.
DELIGHTED WITH NEW CUSTOMERS
Meanwhile, post offices and credit unions still open for business would no doubt be delighted with new customers.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if our people had the courage to fight back.
Just as their filthy disappearing act didn’t involve bullets or bombs, but could have the same effect, there will be no need for any violence on the part of those who still have a need for financial institutions of some sort.
We can simply fight with our feet, march to our local post offices and credit unions where, we have no doubt we will be welcomed with open arms by friendly staff and not by ugly machines.
We can do to the banks exactly what they did to us.
Feck off and leave them in the lurch.
Our memo to disgusting bankers should be good luck and good riddance.
*Kilkenny banks that bite the dust in the latest cull are in Callan, Graignamanagh, Thomastown and Urlingford.
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