Tuesday 25 September 2018

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Cork Independent

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Post office closures highlight attitude to rural Ireland

Wednesday, 5th September, 2018 4:46pm

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, the old saying goes.

“It’s no good to say to them you’ll have a post office within 15km. What good is that for an old person that is going for their pension? They’ll have to hire a taxi, pay €30 or €40 and a fifth of their pension gone just to collect the thing. That’s no good to people in rural Ireland. In many instances, this is a public service, and that’s what you’re doing; you’re eroding and taking that away and it’s wrong.”

Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae was not wrong when he said this to press outside the Dail on Tuesday. That day TDs on an Oireachtas Committee had grilled the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten about the post office closures.

Last week it was announced that 12 Cork communities are set to lose their post offices while 159 are set to shut across the country.

Postmasters in Allihies, Ballineen, Ballyclough, Ballynoe, Carrigadrohid, Desertserges, Drinagh, Lackaroe, Minane Bridge, Newtwopothouse, Rockchapel and Shanballymore have opted to retire following a historic agreement between An Post and the Irish Postmasters Union.

An Post said that every community over 500 people would still have a post office. People have complained, however, that An Post are not taking into account the number of people around a village that use a post office.

The catchment areas of some villages may host a significant amount of people that use the post office. An Post have said that everyone in Ireland will have the use of a post office within 15km. But as Danny Healy-Rae said, that isn’t any good to a lot of older people. For them, 15km is a huge distance.

Many older people are not going to be able to learn how to use a computer and do online banking, so the post office can be truly vital.

On Tuesday, the Chief Executive of An Post David McRedmond defended plans to close the 159 post offices in rural areas. He said the consolidation and reconfiguration of the network was essential to the future of the service.

He added that any attempt to reverse the plan would have the “most serious consequences”.

He also said that the 159 offices that are set to close accounted for 3.7 per cent of all customers.

Fianna Fáil communications spokesman Timmy Dooley suggested that Minister Naughten had been ‘spooked’ by An Post over the future of the company by presenting the worst case scenario. The Minister denied this.

It does feel like rural Ireland is being left behind, as it loses more vital services.

Some people have suggested that this is as big an issue as Brexit for rural people.

I haven’t used a post office in months, but I can see the hugely detrimental effect these closures could have for some people. Rural communities need to keep vital services so people can continue to live there.

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