Pressure is growing on Minister Richard Bruton to intervene in a stand-off between An Post and residents of Thurles in Co Tipperary over a plan to re-locate the local post office from the centre of town to a shopping centre.
Over 1,000 people turned out this morning for a rally to protest against An Post's decision to close the existing post office in Liberty Square and open a new branch at Thurles Shopping Centre.
"Thurles is fighting back," the protesters were told amid calls for local TDs to meet with Richard Bruton, whose cabinet portfolio includes Communications, as soon as possible.
Mr Bruton has previously said that the decision is a matter for An Post and that he won't be intervening, while An Post said today that the move to Thurles Shopping Centre - 700 metres from the existing post office according to Google Maps - will happen later this year.
"If our TDs can't overturn the decision it's a poor reflection on them and on their power to do anything positive for the town of Thurles," Liberty Square resident and business-owner Gerry Hogan said to loud cheers at the end of the rally, outside the post office which is three doors away from Hayes' Hotel, where the GAA was founded in 1884.
Chairman of the Stop The Move Save Our Square campaign, Jim Ryan, asked the local TDs - including Fianna Fáil's Jackie Cahill and independent Michael Lowry, both of whom have supported the current Government and both of whom are from the Thurles area - to commit to meeting with Richard Bruton on the issue, but said he had got "silence" in response to this request.
"It's a disappointing way to end this meeting here today," Mr Ryan, who is also an independent member of Tipperary County Council, said.
There were some interruptions to the speech Michael Lowry as he told them that he did his banking and shopping in Thurles's town square. "Just a second, just a second, I'll complete what I have to say," he said after one intervention by a woman in the crowd.
"It's going to take the input of the minister," he said in relation to any possibility of reversing the relocation decision, as An Post have already made up their minds.
Local people, including business-owners on Liberty Square, fear that moving the post office away from the town centre will affect other businesses in the area and reduce footfall in the square.
A number of speakers also spoke about the routine followed by many elderly people who get the bus to Thurles, do their shopping on the Square, leave their bags at Hayes' Hotel while they fill a prescription or visit the hairdresser or some other outlet, have a cup of tea and have their bags brought back to the bus by hotel staff before they depart.
"Someone up there [Dublin] makes a decision and hasn't a clue of the effect," another local resident, Kieran Linnane, said.
We, to them, are culchies, fools and gombeens and they can do what they like to us. The level of arrogance and dismissiveness is unbelievable... I'd like to think those in Dublin have picked on the wrong town.
Jim Ryan told the crowd that "people power will win out" in the end. "We cannot let this happen."
A spokesman for An Post said that the decision represents "not a loss of service, it's an enhancement to the service we have provided for years to the people of Thurles," as it will allow new facilities be offered to customers from a new, larger, outlet in the shopping centre.
"We still plan to move to the shopping centre in the second half of this year."