By Dan Danaher
An Post says that, as part of its Post Office Transformation Programme and a €50m investment in the post office network, 161 postmasters have applied for the company’s voluntary retirement package, resulting from the recent ground-breaking agreement with the Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU).
This will likely result in the closure of 161 post offices out of a network of 1,111.
The list of post offices closing will be issued at the end of this month.
Among the post offices due to close are a number in Co Clare: Doonbeg, Cooraclare, Cree, Lissycasey, Craggagh, Fanore, and Kilfenora.
Cooraclare postmistress Geraldine Donnellan said she decided to take the retirement package with a “heavy heart”, having spent 30 years working in the delivery of postal services.
Ms Donnellan said the business is no longer viable and she criticised the lack of Government action as additional services that had been promised for years, such as providing motor taxation, never came.
She said: “Young people are now doing their business online. I will miss my customers, and I have a huge fear of what will happen to the village when you see what happened to Mullagh village when the post office closed.”
Jack Horgan, who has been the postmaster in Cree for the last 33 years, is also taking the difficult decision to close his doors. There has been a post office in the village for 71 years. He believes the closure of rural post offices is part of Government policy.
Lissycasey postmistress Mary Hanrahan, who has run the post office for 30 years, said she was left with “no choice” but to take the package as the business is no longer sustainable. She believes she was backed into a corner by An Post and the Government.
Kilfenora postmistress Marie Hogan admitted it was a very difficult decision to take the voluntary severance package after spending more than 18 years serving the community. Once this post office closes, patrons will have to travel to Corofin and Ennistymon for postal services.
Craggagh postmaster Mick O’Toole described the closure as a “very difficult decision” for him. He plans to keep his shop open as long as it is viable and says rural services have to be supported if people want them to survive.
Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley says it is disappointing that these post offices are closing at a time when the Government’s promise of providing rural broadband is “withering on the vine”. Describing the closures as a huge “body blow” for rural Ireland, he criticised the Government for failing to protect rural services.
A spokeswoman for An Post told The Clare Champion that An Post is committed to ensuring everyone will be served by at least one post office within 15km and that every community with 500 people will also have access to a post office.