Services in Rural Ireland being left to wither and die as Government facilitates closure of hundreds of post offices according to Clare TD Timmy Dooley.
Fianna Fáil’s Communications Spokesperson has warned that vast swathes of the country will be left without post offices if the An Post proposals come to pass.
Deputy Dooley issued the warning as it became clear that the Government is unwilling to block An Post’s proposals to close up to 300 post offices in rural Ireland.
“Rural Ireland is being left to wither and die by Fine Gael and their independent friends. The most galling part of this is that Minister Naughten represents a rural constituency.
“Many postmasters and postmistresses have been offered sweetheart delays to retire. These communities are not guaranteed that a replacement contract will be put out to tender.
“When a rural community sees its post office close, it can be a body blow to its sustainability and viability.
“There has been a stabilisation in An Post’s financial position arising from the increase in the cost of postage. However, this cannot be used as a mechanism to pay for the closure of post offices.
“Post offices cannot be simply seen as commercial ventures operating under normal profit and loss criteria. They are much more than that. They are service hubs and meeting points for rural, and sometimes, isolated communities.
“Post offices are the life blood of rural communities. For many, the harp over the door of their post office is the only visible indication of government services in their community.
“Fianna Fáil is clear that where there are post offices that are not financially viable but provide important and essential services to communities, there must be a government intervention in the form of a public service obligation (PSO) to ensure that they remain open to the public,” concluded Dooley.
Clare Independent TD Dr Michael Harty also raised the issue in the Dáil where he attacked the exit package offered by An Post to Postmasters.
“Effectively, what is being offered to the postmasters amounts to compulsory closure. They are being given a Hobson’s choice by virtue of the fact that unacceptable financial burdens are being placed on them to sign new contracts, remain on the existing contracts with diminishing incomes or take the exit package, which is completely unacceptable to most postmasters and postmistresses who have 20, 30 or 40 years’ service. Rather than devolving services to post offices, the Minister is actually showing them the door and asking them to walk through it,” Dr Harty said.