The Dáil has voted down a motion which would have guaranteed the future of the post office network.
TDs instead approved a Government counter-motion which fell short of guaranteeing the survival of smaller post offices.
The Dáil's public gallery was packed with members of the Irish Postmasters' Union as the vote was held.
During the debate one Labour TD accused Fine Gael deputies of handing out politicians' mobile numbers to angry postmasters.
Arthur Spring also warned Fine Gael that it was 'heading for a general election' if it did not stop getting supporters to target Labour on the issue.