Communications Minister Denis Naughten has rejected the closure of 159 post offices will be detrimental to rural Ireland, insisting post offices have to be viable.
The Roscommon-based minister said it is important to have viable post network across the country.
Mr Naughten said the company, less than two years ago, had moved from a place where it was facing the closure of all post offices and the possible liquidation of An Post to the growth and expansion of the business.
He said there would still be 960 post offices and that they would be able to provide foreign exchange services as well as the expansion of banking services.
All of the remaining post offices, bar one or two, would have access to high-speed broadband within eight or nine months. He said digital services would also be increased within post offices.
Fianna Fáil communications spokesperson Timmy Dooley expressed surprise at the number of closures.
“Improving the services for some at a loss to others is not acceptable,” he said.
Mr Dooley said it was incumbent on the State to support the post office network through the provision of a Public Service Obligation (PSO) and, also, on An Post to retain the network at its current strength.
“We have to be in a position as a State to provide an equality or an equivalence of service across the State, whether it’s in urban or rural areas,” Mr Dooley said.
Reacting to the closures, Labour spokesperson on rural affairs Willie Penrose said the impact on rural Ireland and rural living will be detrimental.
“If we want to see rural towns and villages expanding and thriving, we need to be investing in them, not running from them.
“This latest round of post office closures will leave some people with a 30km round-trip to access their post office. That is a 30km round-trip to collect a pension, fill out a tax form or get a child benefit payment,” he said.
“The CEO of An Post said that he wants to see more government services rolled out in post offices and to give people a better service.
“While I agree with him that An Post should be able to offer more services to its customers, I would ask him how he thinks making rural communities more isolated from these services helps anyone.”
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy described An Post plans as an absolute scandal that must be resisted.
“Local post office branches are a vital element in the sustainability of many small towns, villages and communities across Ireland. But our rural post office network has been under sustained attack in recent years,” he said.
“This has included the closure of many branches, funding cutbacks, the decision of the Department of Social Protection to move to the electronic transfers of social welfare and pension payments, and of course, the EU Postal Services Directive that prevents governments from adequately subsidising this essential public service.
“The vital community role of the post office network has been ruthlessly undermined by successive Irish Governments as well as the EU.”