THREATS to rural post offices come in many forms — liberalisation of the postal market — rationalisation of services and depopulation of the countryside among them.
They have fought back with admirable spirit against all despite an ambivalent Government attitude to their future.
With persistence and ingenuity, they may well find ways to improve their financial viability and secure their place at the heart of the communities they serve.
But what of the other threat they face — the kind that comes with a loaded gun? The ordeal staff in Waterville and Mullinavat were subjected to by armed raiders will have sent chills through every rural post office in the country.
In both cases, the actions of their customers and neighbours were crucial in apprehending the culprits, and gardaí have been generous with their praise for the bravery and civic-mindedness of the members of the public involved.
But it is a reminder that the Garda presence in rural communities has also been cut and that the vulnerability of outlying post offices and other small businesses has increased accordingly.
Post offices may fend off the economic and political threats to their future, but if standing by their counters and communities means staff are putting their lives at risk, all their efforts at preserving their businesses may become increasingly moot.
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