If communities want to retain local post offices, they must use the service, the Tánaiste has warned.
Responding to questions about the possible closure of Ballydehob post office in West Cork, Simon Coveney admitted the An Post network is facing serious challenges but said Government is also working to protect rural communities.
Around 390 postmasters were informed last month of a voluntary redundancy package being offered as part of a restructuring of the network.
Independent TD Michael Collins raised the issue in the Dáil, citing the case of Bridie Roycroft in the Mizen peninsula village as being among the postmasters who received letters advising of losses in their future income, and offering them a chance of a get-out redundancy.
“Bridie has come out to the public fighting and is a model for other postmasters and mistresses throughout this country as she has decided to ask her community, ‘does it want a post office?’,” said Mr Collins.
Responding, Mr Coveney said West Cork was a “great place” to live and many areas in the region are thriving. While he said there are challenges in An Post, he pointed out that no post office was being forced to close.
“An Post, in particular, has worked with postmasters to come up with an agreed approach to ensure that we have a post office infrastructure that can survive into the future, recognising the modern realities that they face.
“These are voluntary decisions for postmasters to make. What Bridie is doing in Ballydehob, understand, is challenging people locally to use it or lose it. I congratulate her on it.
“Instead of throwing our hands in the air and saying nothing can be done, An Post — working with postmasters and getting agreement and endorsement from them in a ballot as well as working with the minister, Deputy Naughten, who has really taken this issue hugely seriously as a priority in Government — is ensuring that we have a future for a post office network that can help a thriving rural economy to grow and develop.”
However, West Cork-based Mr Collins accused the Government of failing to safeguard rural post offices: “While Government TDs may lament throughout the country about post office closures in their communities, it is all crocodile tears as they have failed to date to sit down as a Government collectively and honestly looking at saving rural post offices.”
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