The refusal by An Post to overturn the decision to close post offices following the resignation of some post masters and post mistresses will “hammer the final nail in the coffin of many communities in rural Ireland”, according to Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.
Earlier this year, approximately 390 post offices were offered exit packages by An Post – which led to 160 post masters and mistresses opting to retire.
While he acknowledged the fact that An Post has established an independent review mechanism, Deputy Fitzmaurice said: “The economic dice are loaded against any attempt to appeal against or prevent the closure of post offices.
“This Government of the posh Dublin 4 boys is a disgrace. When it comes to rural Ireland – between railways, pubs, Garda stations and post offices – it is running out of things to close; and in the case of broadband it appears to be incapable of building anything.
“Communities in rural Ireland which have already lost their local post office – or which are about to see their local outlet close its doors for the final time in the coming weeks – will struggle to survive moving forward.
“I believe that An Post has hugely underestimated the importance of the services that these outlets have provided in their respective communities down through the years.
“In many cases, these post offices provided businesses in their locality with a lifeline which allowed them to grow and prosper. The services available also allowed people living in the area to conduct their business close to home.
“The decision to close outlets and move services to neighbouring post offices – no matter how near An Post tries to argue they are – is just another indication of the lack of respect and consideration that both An Post and this Government have for rural Ireland.
“Where will it all in end? If the services available in rural parts of the country continue to be cut at the current rate, there will be nothing left in just a few short years.
“Businesses – such as shops and pubs, which are struggling to survive as it is – which avail of the services provided by their local post offices may also be forced to consider closing in the wake of losing their nearest outlet,” he said.
Continuing, he added: “An Post is unwilling to take the concerns of local communities on board when it comes to an appeal.
“It talks about protocol and procedures, as well as provisions regarding population thresholds and distances.
“But has it taken any time to consider the businesses, families and elderly people that will be hit hardest by these closures?
“Has it spared a thought for people who can’t drive or for those who don’t own a car? It doesn’t seem so. These people will be forced to travel up to an additional 15km to their nearest post office after these planned closures take place.
“Furthermore, if a person is forced to travel to a different town or village to collect a payment from a post office, there is a good possibility that some of that money will be spent in that area rather than in the person’s own locality – which will undoubtedly lead to the closure of other businesses.”
Importance for rural communities
Deputy Fitzmaurice argued that the decision to close these post offices – despite there being an appetite in some cases for another individual to take them over – will act as a deterrent to people who are considering whether or not to settle down in rural Ireland, given that the closure of some offices may lead to reduced employment opportunities in a particular area.
The independent TD called on both the Minister for Communication, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton, and the Minister of State at his department, Sean Canney, to re-examine the closure of these post offices.
He added: “Given that Minister of State Sean Canney is from rural Ireland, I would hope that he is fully aware of the disastrous impact that will be inflicted following the closure of 160 post offices right across the country.
“It is time for him to take an immediate stand on this issue and look after the people working and living in rural Ireland. Does he want the closure of these post offices to be part of his legacy as Minister of State in the Department of Communication?
“It appears as if his coalition bosses are up to their old tricks of closing rural Ireland by stealth.
“He must stand up for the rural post office or he will leave himself open to the charge of playing Mighty Mouse in Galway and then turning into Mini Mouse in Dublin.
“The minister needs to show that it is he, and not the civil servants, who is running the department,” Deputy Fitzmaurice concluded.