Deputy Thomas Pringle says Government must take action to ensure Irish banks provide access to cash for all communities.
The Killybegs TD addressed the Dáil today in support of a motion on the issue.
He cited the instance of the GAA using all ticket-systems for entrance to games as “very disappointing.”
Deputy Pringle said: “I support the motion’s calls to ensure that the use of digital payment methods is voluntary, not mandatory, and to instruct all banks that operate within this jurisdiction to provide access to cash for all communities.
“There is a societal demand for cash, there is no doubt about that. We have seen evidence of this last summer, when AIB announced their decision to go cashless. There was such a significant backlash from the public, that AIB were forced to swiftly reverse that decision.
“As I said at the time, this was an action that prioritised shareholders over the public and it showed that AIB does not care about the public or local businesses, who rely on cash,” he said.
The deputy was speaking in support of the Rural Independent motion re Protection of Cash as Legal Tender.
Deputy Pringle said: “Unfortunately, due to the banks’ profit-driven model, I do not believe that this will be the last time a bank attempts to go cashless. It is for this reason that we need to put measures in place to stop this. The government is not a neutral observer – they need to be proactive in this case and make sure the legislation is in place to stop the move to cashless.
“Society is becoming increasingly cashless, with contactless becoming increasingly popular. We can accept this fact while at the same time ensuring that cash is still an option,” he said.
The deputy said fully cashless venues severely disadvantage some cohorts more than others, particularly senior citizens, young people, people on low incomes and homeless people.
Deputy Pringle said: “I was particularly disappointed with the GAA’s move to an online-centric ticket system. This has severely impacted many older people in particular, some avid fans for many years.
“Having to buy a ticket online in advance is a nightmare. It requires people, not only to have a bank account, but also to have a computer and internet access. This is particularly difficult for those of us living in rural Ireland, with very weak broadband connections.
“The fibre broadband roll-out may seem like something of the past for those here in the capital, but there are still many areas in my constituency of Donegal that have serious connection issues and will not be getting fibre broadband until 2025 or 2026.”
He said: “The Government needs to take action on this. Cashless events, venues, banks and businesses are not only problematic for older people and those living in rural Ireland, but also for victims of domestic abuse who are experiencing financial control by an abusive partner. Women’s Aid have stated that: ‘Very often, abusive partners control access to the family finances. Financial abuse includes exerting control over income, spending and bank accounts. Without access to money, and in particular in cash form, it is difficult to leave an abuser and access safety.’ Disabled women and migrant women are particularly at risk.
“I am also concerned about the level of tracking and surveillance that banks and governments would have access to in a cashless society. This information is incredibly valuable, and though we may not be at risk now, we don’t know how this information might be used in the future.
“It is vitally important then that we ensure that cash is always an option and I urge the government to take a stronger stance on this, one that goes beyond the toothless act of merely supporting this motion. Action is needed, not words,” he said.