Full postal services must be retained

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The need for full postal services to be maintained in post offices across east Galway was stressed this week by Paul Connaughton T.D., who raised the future of Barnaderg Post Office during a debate on topical issues in the Dáil last Thursday.

This week he also pointed to a Grant Thornton report which suggests that half of all post offices will close if the processing of Social Protection payments is removed from post offices and said that such an option was not feasible in county Galway, where banks had moved out of smaller and larger towns and currently do not have a network suitable to serve the largely rural population.

The report commissioned by the Irish Postmaster’s Union reveals that the payment of €9 billion in Social Protection payments is what is sustaining many rural post offices. ‘Paying Social Protection through banks is simply not an option in East Galway. Take the town of Glenamaddy, both the Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank have closed in the town, and while there are local credit union facilities, there are no bank facilities within about nine miles of the town in any direction. People on low incomes through Social Welfare cannot be expected to make a sixteen mile round trip in an area where there is no public transport to access their money if there is a problem or they need to visit a branch.’

Speaking during the Topical Issues debate, Deputy Connaughton raised the issue of the inadequate consultation period in relation to the closure of post offices with specific reference to Barnaderg Post Office. He noted that he met with concerned local people the previous week and was hopeful that the consultation process would result in the post office facility being retained in Barnaderg.

            Deputy Connaughton told the Dáil that in rural areas the post office is the only point of contact many people have during the week as they avail of its services. He noted that last year the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications produced a report which urged An Post to clarify the criteria used when closing post offices and pointed out that the community in Barnaderg was notified via a note on the post office window that it could be closed following a consultation period.

The joint committee had also recommended that An Post introduce an amber light warning system which would give communities advance warning that their post office may be vulnerable to closure. ‘The problem with that is if the community is not informed by the company about what it is looking for and what makes a successful post office and the products that should be offered, it is difficult for those involved. The community has had this post office for years but it now has to come up with a business plan within two weeks to establish the need for it.’ He called on the Minister to implement the joint committee’s recommendations and added that the consultation period in relation to Barnaderg post office was too short.

‘It is possible that the post office may be retained in some form but I am seeking the retention of full postal services, which the community has been used to for many years. A watering down of services will not be acceptable. An Post needs to take that into consideration before a decision is made. This is a viable post office. A member of the late postmaster’s family is willing to take over immediately and there will be no break in service. I do not understand why An Post cannot give this person at least 12 months to provide the service. If the company could not find anyone to take on a viable business, that would be a different scenario. It is unacceptable that it should take such a heavy-handed approach in this case where a family member is prepared to maintain the business.

‘All of the people in Barnaderg and Killererin to whom I have spoken want the post office to be retained and they want to ensure that the full range of services will continue to be offered there. I have no doubt that the local community will row in behind the post office more than ever before if it is retained. It is important that An Post takes this issue seriously and ensures that Barnaderg post office remains open.’