VISITORS to the county capital from its twin city of Phoenix certainly didn’t ‘bank’ on the kind of reception they received when they visited the town recently. While the recent Phoenix Week has been hailed as an overwhelming success, one local councillor has criticised the way some of the Phoenix delegates were treated in the town’s banks.
Councillor Mary Howard, speaking at a meeting of Ennis Town Council, revealed that some of the young students, part of St Mary’s High School Band, who travelled from America to Ennis, were caught short on their first day when they realised they had to change their US dollars.
“They were brought to one bank to change their dollars to euros, which I do not want to name, and they were dealt with in a very uncourteous way. They were told to be quiet and that they couldn’t take over the whole bank. They had just arrived here and they were shattered after their long trip and they were model ambassadors during their time here. When they got to the window at the bank they were told they were at the wrong place and they had to go back again. Then the bank refused to change their $100 dollar bills and they were told to go to another bank,” she said.
The group received a similar reception at another bank, where they were told they could not cash dollars without an account. A member of the Ennis Phoenix Twinning Board, who Councillor Howard described as “horrified” by the situation, had an account at the bank, and was requested to sign photocopies of the $100 dollars. Councillor Howard stated, “It is an incredibily bad impression to give to tourists. This is the Year of the Gathering and this was our first big group of tourists to come here.”
She commented that the attitude of those in the bank dealing with the young Phoenix visitors was “incredibly rude”.
Councillor Howard put forward a motion calling on the council to request the Minister for Finance to “investigate the issue regarding $100 bills because financial institutions are refusing to accept same. This is causing difficulties for our tourism sector and causing embarrasment to tourists in this Year of the Gathering.”
She went on, “Phoenix Week was such a huge success and surely they knew in the bank that there would be a large group coming.” The banks involved are to be contacted by the Twinning Board, with Councillor Howard also saying that the issue should be brought to the attention of Fáílte Ireland, the Financial Services Ombudsman and the Ministers for Finance and Tourism. She urged that tourists planning to come to Ireland should be made aware that there are difficulties changing $100 dollar bills before they arrive.
Mayor of Ennis, Councillor Peter Considine, commented that it is the “hierarchy” that determine the banking policy and not the frontline staff that should be criticised. Councillor Tommy Brennan stated that overseas visitors are not the only ones with issues in the town’s banks.
“The staff are going along the queues asking you what you are doing and sending you to a machine, some people like the elderly don’t want machines. It’s a disgrace what’s going on.”
Councillor Johnny Flynn agreed that Fáilte Ireland should be instrumental in letting tourists know there are issues in changing $100 dollars, adding that restrictions are in place because this denomination is most susceptible to forgery.
According to the US embassy website, travellers to Ireland are warned that, “Irish banks may refuse to exchange one hundred dollar bills because there are significant numbers of fraudulent one hundred dollar bills currently in circulation in Ireland, especially bills issued prior to 1990.”