Communications Minister Denis Naughten has admitted an unknown number of post offices will be asked to voluntarily close over the next four years, amid opposition claims some rural communities could “cease to exist”.
His confirmation came just 24 hours after it emerged An Post had written to 390 postmasters offering voluntary exit packages, just days after a disputed leaked cabinet memo claimed 2,000 jobs could go in the period to 2022.
In response to Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley, Mr Naughten said that while he was determined to improve the postal service the reality was progress meant some facilities would no longer be needed.
He said “some” post offices will be asked to voluntarily close over the next four years and said it would ultimately improve the service. I am acutely conscious of the value placed by communities in both rural and urban areas on services provided by post offices and am concerned to ensure the needs of those communities continue to be met.
“I understand An Post has not made any definite decision on post office closures, but there is no doubt that the move to electronic transactions has affected the post office network.
“Changes to the footprint of the post offices network, where they occur in the longer term, will be a consequence of the modernisation process as opposed to an objective of the modernisation process.
“That means, over the next four years, some post offices may close, but that is solely a matter for An Post and the postmasters to work out through a defined process,” Mr Naughten said.
Mr Dooley responded by saying while reforms may be needed, the suggestion voluntary closures may take place is likely to cause significant concern for communities dependent on the services in rural Ireland.
Asking Mr Naughten “what about the viability of the communities that will be left without perhaps the only service they have had for some time”, and noting the fact garda stations and small schools have already closed, Mr Dooley warned “communities will cease to exist in a short term” if the closures go ahead.
However, Mr Naughten responded by insisting reforms are needed both for An Post and the communities. However, he stated he was aware of some areas where there are two post offices within 700 metres of each other for no clear reason.
The Dáil comments came as it emerged An Post has written to Irish Postmasters Union representatives offering 390 postmasters exit packages.
It also came after a leaked cabinet memo last week claimed An Post may have to shed 2,000 jobs over the next four years, a claim the State service has disputed.
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