Bedford Row brawl as ‘free money’ flows

The Bank of Ireland branch on the corner of Bedford Row and O'Connell Street. Photo: Google Maps.

THERE were chaotic scenes at ATMs across Limerick in the early hours of Wednesday morning (August 16), including the outbreak of a brawl on Bedford Row, as a Bank of Ireland (BOI) glitch allowed people to withdraw or transfer money above their normal limits.

The fault with BOI’s online app allowed people to transfer sums up to €500, despite having no money in their account. This led to many BOI users transferring large amounts to other banks and online apps including Revolut.

Some claimed to have withdrawn sums up to €1,000, leading many people to believe they were getting ‘free money’.

The fervour for ‘free’ cash led to a fight breaking out amongst revellers waiting at the bank’s ATMs on O’Connell Street and Bedford Row in the early hours of Wednesday morning when people repeatedly withdrawing money allegedly led to the machine running out of cash.

An eyewitness told the Limerick Post that there were large groups of people gathering around the Bank of Ireland ATMs in the O’Connell Street/Bedford Row area in the city after midnight, including people in their pyjamas.

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The witness, who asked not to be named, said: “There were a lot of people all of different nationalities gathered around trying to take out money.”

“People were really excited and jumping and shouting ‘free money, free money’.

“I heard one person say they took out €1,000. There were a lot of people gathered in their pyjamas.”

According to the eyewitness, a fight broke out among the group after a teenager tried to skip the queue, telling onlookers that it was his “right” to skip the queue “because he was Irish”.

“At one point, a teenager tried to skip the queue and take money out a good few times, so people tried to stop him and get him to go to the back of the queue and wait his turn.”

“He started telling people that, because he was Irish, it was his right to skip the queue and take as much as he wants,” they said.

“At that point, a fight broke out and people began yelling at the teenager. He got violent with people and started to punch them.”

However, overall, the mood was a happy one according to the source, who described people chatting and comparing how much money they had gotten from the machines.

“Most people were really happy and calling their families and friends, telling them about the ATM machines,” the witness told the Limerick Post.

“Everyone was kind of crazy, some people arrived by car and didn’t even park their cars, they just stopped the car and went straight to the ATMs to take money out.”

“Around 12.20am, a couple tried to take out money with their card and they couldn’t, so people started to think that the glitch was fixed and they started to go home.”

Gardaí were reportedly present around a number of Bank of Ireland ATMs in Limerick, including in Castletroy, to control the queues.

Nationally, there was a strong Garda presence preventing people from using ATMs in the early hours, with many videos circulating online of Gardaí blocking machines across Tuesday night.

In a statement issued on Wednesday morning, Bank of Ireland apologised for the error and said that anyone who had taken out  cash over and above what they had in their account will have the amounts reflected on their accounts today.

“Yesterday a technical issue impacted a number of Bank of Ireland’s services. Our teams restored these services overnight and all services are available to customers this morning. Overnight payments to accounts may appear throughout the day,” the statement said.

“We are aware that the technical issue meant some customers were able to withdraw or transfer funds above their normal limits. These transfers and withdrawals will be applied to customers’ accounts today. We urge any customer who may find themselves in financial difficulty due to overdrawing on their account to contact us.”

The statement from the financial institution finished by apologising and saying that the error “fell far below the standards our customers expect from us”.

In a post on Bank of Ireland’s Twitter account, the company said that anyone transferring or withdrawing money above their usual limits will have the money debited from their account.

“We would like to remind customers if transferring/withdrawing funds – including over normal limits – this money will be debited from their account,” the bank said.