Muintir na Tíre, the National Association for Community Development, has said that the planned closure of rural post offices is premature.

Muintir na Tíre National President, Michael Sweeney said “For many years, Muintir has lobbied for improvements to the post office network, including in our recent Save Rural Ireland campaign. Since these improvements have not been fully explored, the proposed closures are premature. For most of these villages, if they lose their post office it is unlikely they will ever have a State presence again.”

CEO, Niall Garvey added, “in 2015 we were part of the Bobby Kerr review of the post office network. This review concluded that many smaller offices are not commercially viable but they serve a vital social role. It was agreed this social capital should be recognised and funded separately to An Post, if necessary.”

“In many communities, the post office is the last remaining community hub and it was agreed this role could be expanded – beyond the current core post office business and to include many other state services and facilities. There was agreement that this would be explored on a pilot basis. Therefore it is premature to close post offices before the structure of the overall network is reviewed.”

“We realise that not one size fits all, but we believe with some time and effort that these vital services can be saved. In some cases the existing services can be co-located with another premises in the area. Several of the communities currently slated for post office closure have already identified existing shops willing to take on the services. In other cases an expanded offering, through a community hub, would work.”

“This review would take a little time, and it is disappointing so little has happened since 2015. However, it must be given this time and priority. An Post is profitable again so this is not an emergency, but in fairness, they must know what their future mandate and funding is to be also. In the interim though, the current redundancy process is not fair. Every postmaster or postmistress involved is self-employed and rightly has to consider his or her own livelihood. However, pitting them against the very communities that they have served, and that have supported them, is wrong and is causing tension.”

“We have often used the “use it or lose” mantra ourselves, but in the case of small post offices, it is not working. This is because the demand for existing services is declining. The solution though is not to remove them, but to expand them.”