An Post must not still rural Ireland’s heart
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.