Councillors in Co Kerry have unanimously backed a call to declare the post office network a national asset.
It is part of a six-point plan to sustain the network by the Irish Postmasters’ Union, presented at yesterday’s meeting of the county council. Mayor of Kerry, Fine Gael councillor Pat McCarthy, called on colleagues in particular to spend and pay more of their bills at the local post office.
Mr McCarthy said even €10 a week spent in shops attached to post offices would make an enormous difference. He said post offices should be a provider of all government services payments, from motor tax to hospital payments and local authority bills.
He said electronic payment systems needed to be installed in post offices to allow full banking facilities.
Meanwhile, Independent councillor Brendan Cronin said: “Rural post offices are the foundation stones of rural communities.”
The consequences of the closure of rural garda stations, creameries and post offices caused terrible isolation, he said, adding that 3,700 people were employed in post offices, and post offices were the largest retail network in a significant Grant Thornton report in February 2014.
“The report concluded that hundreds of offices would close by 2017, mainly due to the movement towards direct electronic transfer of social welfare payments,” said Seamus O’Luing representing the postmasters.
It was therefore vital that post offices should retain and deliver Department of Social Protection payments either through cash or electronic payments.
Mr McCarthy said a question arose about a possible breach of European law if the network was run down.
“I want you to ask yourself how many of my bills do I pay through the post office,” he said. “Most post offices survive by having a small shop but how many of us spend even €5 to €10 a week in these shops? Were we to do that it would make an enormous difference.”
Fianna Fáil councillor Norma Foley said the post office network had already been diluted and this was by stealth.
“The diminishing of the post office network has been by stealth,” she said.
Mr O’Luing said post masters wanted a policy framework in place before the next election and a national policy strategy to be worked out, recognising the network as a national asset.
Independent councillor Donal Grady said that householders should tell politicians in the forthcoming general elections that they wanted to keep their post offices.
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