An Post must not still ru­ral Ire­land’s heart

Irish Daily Mail - - News -

IN a state­ment to this news­pa­per last night, An Post said it could not ig­nore ‘the re­al­i­ties of the mod­ern re­tail busi­ness’ and that, as a re­sult, post of­fice clo­sures were in­evitable. While it sought to play down fears that the number of clo­sures could be around 400, it was un­able to state defini­tively that this cull of post of­fices would not come to pass.

From a purely com­mer­cial per­spec­tive, it is hard to ar­gue with the prin­ci­ple that loss-mak­ing post of­fices can­not be sus­tained for­ever.

The point, how­ever, is that for many peo­ple around this coun­try, the lo­cal post of­fice is not just a ‘mod­ern re­tail busi­ness’. It is far more than that.

It is the heart of the com­mu­nity: a place which, in this dis­con­nected age, can serve as a hub for peo­ple for miles around.

It is a provider of es­sen­tial ser­vices, par­tic­u­larly for el­derly peo­ple who may sim­ply not be able to adapt to new ways of man­ag­ing their af­fairs on­line.

There­fore, we as a so­ci­ety have to look harder at the role that a post of­fice pro­vides to small com­mu­ni­ties around this coun­try and ask whether we are re­ally pre­pared to al­low them to be axed.

More­over, we can­not al­low the Gov­ern­ment to stand idly by as this hap­pens – to wash its hands of the is­sue.

As Ned O’Hara of the Ir­ish Post­mas­ters Union said: ‘There are a range of Gov­ern­ment ser­vices which should be made avail­able in post of­fices but they’re not.

‘Post of­fices can’t just de­cide what’s made avail­able – it’s up to the Gov­ern­ment and An Post to al­low us to sell the ser­vices.’

We can­not turn back the tide of change: but by the same to­ken, if the Gov­ern­ment truly ap­pre­ci­ated the crit­i­cal im­por­tance of post of­fices to many small ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, it would un­doubt­edly do far, far more to save them.

If it does not, it is not just aban­don­ing post of­fices, it is aban­don­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple, mostly in ru­ral ar­eas, who rely on them.

We spend bil­lions of euro a year on wel­fare ben­e­fits: it does not seem a great stretch to sug­gest that some of those funds would be of far greater ben­e­fit to far more cit­i­zens if they were used to sup­port our post of­fices in­stead.

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