East Cork postmaster: I was the only human being she met for the week

Paddy O’Shea, who has been running a post office for the last 37 years in East Cork, believes he will be out of business in three to five years.

He was speaking in Dublin yesterday where the Irish Postmasters’ Union held a demonstration outside the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment saying that the Government was “overseeing the demise” of the national postal network.

“I’m in Aghada in East Cork. I’ve a middle-sized office and it’s in a small village and obviously, we give great service but it [business] is dropping all the time,” Mr O’Shea told the Irish Examiner.

“We can only look forward about three or four years, five years at the most because the way it is going I expect it to drop a lot now the next time. I have a woman working for me three days a week, if I get another drop, I won’t be able to employ her.”

His post office serves the community in terms of social welfare payments and general postal services as well as providing “social work”.

“People are looking for the local thing,” he said.

“They want to come in. We do an awful lot of social work. People coming in, elderly people, a lot of them come into us, and we do everything for them and they’re mad to come in.

“Someone came into me yesterday and said I was the only human being she met for the week. She goes to the bank, there’s a machine. She comes to me I’ll talk to her. I’ll do anything she wants. So it’s very important for any community, for anywhere, in the country more than the city.”

He believes his post office will see a drop of about €10,000 in business next year and cited several reasons for the falloff, including younger people organising things like car tax online.

“Well, basically the banks [are causing the business to drop] and the Government is giving us no business. People under 40, they come in now and then,” he said.

However, despite speculation that the introduction of the €1 stamp would put people off sending cards, Mr O’Shea says this has not been his experience.

“A lot of that [sending cards] is still going on and last Christmas I think it went up a bit. The only one that cribbed about the €1 stamp was a doctor. He came in for 200 stamps and he said: ‘How much?’ And I said €200 and he said: ‘My god, it went up. I’ll do a lot online in future.’ But he was the only one that cribbed,” Mr O’Shea.

Irish Postmasters’ Union general secretary Ned O’Hara said the protest was as a result of “Government inaction and its continued refusal to invest in its own network”. When asked how long some struggling post offices would last, he said he expected an “avalanche” of closures. “I think some postmasters will be making a decision. They’re just waiting, waiting, waiting in the hope that somebody will do something otherwise I think there will be an avalanche of post offices closing.”

The postmasters also announced yesterday that they were withdrawing the current talks with An Post, on the future of the network.

The union said they were doing this “because of no prospect of agreement”.

The talks had been underway since May. The union will also not co-operate with the introduction of the planned An Post smart account. The product is described by An Post as a “gamechanger” in the current account market, allowing people to save up to €660 a year on their household spending.

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