Every September without fail, the banks in Ireland battle to sign up as many new college students as they possibly can. The logic is that because the Irish are so notoriously reluctant to change bank accounts, once in, a student will be a customer for life. Therefore, the banks arm themselves with “goodies” to entice students to open accounts. These “goodies” range from free flights and student travelcards to simple cash amounts. While these incentives are generally seen as healthy competition, this year Ulster Bank upped the ante.
The story broke on Joe Duffy’s Liveline programme when the concerned mother of a Tallaght IT student rang the show to complain that Ulster Bank were offering tickets to an “exotic dance” show, along with a Toblerone, a bottle of water and €100, to attract students.
Suzanne Keagan angrily claimed that the bank’s scheme was “just immoral.” She described how students raced over to the Ulster bank stall where bank representatives were busy signing up students to, in the words of one student, the “stripper account”.
The bank was quick to deny any affiliation with the incident. A spokesman stated that “Ulster Bank has no involvement in the organisation of this event and once the nature of the event was realised, the Bank immediately withdrew any association with the event”. Meanwhile, Tallaght IT distanced itself from both Ulster Bank and the event, stating that the “Institute of Technology Tallaght has no association with Ulster Bank and has no further comment.”
This story is a serious one however, despite guffaws about asset management. Even though lap dancing is not illegal in Ireland, the industry has an unsavoury reputation. It is not all that long ago that the notorious Peter Stringfellow was forced to close his table-dancing club in Dublin city amid persistent protests from residents and lobby groups.
Lobby groups like the National Women’s Council reacted angrily to the events in Tallaght. Council Director Susan McKay referred to the event as demeaning and said: “It’s important that people understand that this isn’t just a bit of a laugh. Many of the women working in that kind of trade, on the fringes of the sex trade, are extremely exploited”. She was furious that women should be “put on a par with Toblerones and bottles of water”.
She went on to argue that “Women in USI should also organise against this type of thing being organised for freshers, it’s anti-feminist and anti-women.” Furthermore, Labour Youth criticized the offer, saying that it showed “clear disregard” for women’s rights.
It is understood that the Tallaght IT Student Union were responsible for organizing the controversial offer. They declined to comment on the event or its aftermath.
The event, which was due to take place at 3pm in the off-campus Metro Bar on Thursday the 24th September, has now been cancelled by the organisers.