Warning on post office cuts in Limerick

Nick Rabbitts

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Nick Rabbitts

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nick@limerickleader.ie

Warning on post office cuts in Limerick

ANY more cuts to the post office network in Limerick would mean “game over” for rural communities, local representatives have warned.

One postmistress has said comments by An Post’s top brass over closures are “beyond scary”.

There are currently 55 post offices across county Limerick, and there are fresh fears some may be axed, after An Post CEO David McRedmond said “consolidation” of some branches in nearby areas was on the way.

Post offices offer a variety of services on top of regular postal facilities, including cash withdrawals, which are key after AIB closed a number of rural banks in 2011. As well as this, social welfare and pension payments can be collected.

Local Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins said Fine Gael must stop a state company carrying out a swathe of closures, accusing the party of being “anti-rural”.

Fine Gael councillor Gerry Mitchell, meanwhile, has accused An Post of “closing the door on rural Ireland”.

Mary O’Brien, who runs the Ballylanders post office, said if this was closed, it would be “absolutely devastating” to the village.

“It’s the hub of the community. We would have an age profile of a lot of elderly people. We have a community bus which brings them into the daycare centre. They’re independent, they can come in and do their business with us,” she explained.

Mary added that due to the fact the post office in the village offers a cash-withdrwal facility for AIB customers, she enjoys a lot of passing trade.

As part of cost-saving measures, Mr McRedmond has suggested some post offices may be relocated to within other facilities.

But the Ballylanders postmistress feels this is not appropriate, given many people using the post-office facilities want to retain a sense of privacy when conducting their affairs.

“Also, people feel obliged to buy something if they go into a shop, which is also a problem,” she said.

Donie Carroll, who runs the Hospital post office, added: “We’ve lost our bank already, and the nearest branch is in Kilmallock. I do a lot of AIB banking here to save people travelling. It will be a disaster for the town [if we close]. The money I give out is spread around to local businesses, shops and butchers. If people have to go somewhere else to get their money, it’s going to take it out of the town.”

The Irish Postmasters Union (IPU) has launched a campaign after Mr McRedmond’s comments.

They staged a protest at the GPO this week, while there will be a further rally outside the Dail next month.

The IPU’s Limerick spokesperson Seamus O’Luing said: “It would be game over for some communities. For every euro which goes into the economy from a post office, it’s circulated six times over.

“Also, there’s the social aspect of the work which is done. Most postmasters go above and beyond the call of duty to look after customers who have problems with form filling or issues with technology.”

Sinn Fein councillor Lisa-Marie Sheehy, who lives in Kilfinane, is to lay down a motion seeking fellow members’ opposition to any more rural closures.

She said: “Post offices are the bread and butter of rural Ireland. They are nearly all that’s left in some areas. You have the banks gone, a load of pubs gone, and the garda stations gone in some areas. I really believe if this comes to fruition, it will be the nail in the coffin of rural Ireland.”

Cllr Mitchell said: “They’re closing the door on rural Ireland, and they’d want to open it up again. If we want people to live in rural Ireland and have a quality of life, people need facilities.”

Mr Collins added: “It’s no wonder we have a two-tier economy and society, the greater Dublin area versus the rest of the country. What government needs to focus on is generating more business for post offices and making them operate as viable community hubs.”