Limerick postmaster issues stark warning over challenges facing post office network

Norma Prendiville

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Norma Prendiville

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norma.prendiville@limerickleader.ie

Limerick postmaster issues stark warning over challenges facing post office network

om O’Brien, the postmaster in Broadford, made his comments in advance of a meeting of the Limerick branch of the Irish Postmasters Union

“WHEN post offices close, places die,” Tom O’Brien, the postmaster in Broadford said  in advance of a meeting of the Limerick branch of the Irish Postmasters Union (IPU).

The meeting has been called to discuss the break-down in talks between the IPU and An Post about the future of the national network of 1,100 offices.  

Last week, the IPU staged a protest and withdrew from the talks over what it claimed was “government inaction and its continued refusal to invest in its own network”.

There had been no meaningful engagement by the government, IPU spokesman  for the South West, Seamus O’Luing claimed.  Meanwhile, up to 500 post offices nationwide are unviable and at risk of closure, according to  an internal An Post consultancy report.

Several postmasters contacted believe the An Post  report envisages one post-office every 15-20 miles. “Location seems to be the biggest factor,” Cappamore postmaster Donie Carroll said.

The IPU has been fighting to secure the future of the post office network for a number of years arguing for more state services to be routed through post offices and arguing  in particular that the government needs to invest €55m over five years. They broadly welcomed the recommendations of an enquiry led by Bobbie Kerr which reported some years ago. “It was a good start,” Mr Carroll said.

Progress stalled on the Kerr report however and talks only resumed in May before breaking down last week. Without government engagement, there is no solution, Mr O’Luing  said.

“The new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and reappointed Minister for Communications Denis Naughten have taken no action to sustain post offices, and the communities they serve, since coming into office,” he  said.  “They need to put the future of the post office network on page one of this government’s priority list to ensure access to all essential State, financial and social services is maintained and supported in communities across the country,” Mr O’Luing added.

“We are going into uncharted waters,” Mary O’Brien, Ballylanders postmistress said this week.

“We have no idea what the future now holds for us. The thing is we are just living day by day.” There is huge uncertainty, she added.

The age profile of the majority of postmasters and postmistresses was 50-plus, she continued, and she felt that many, if offered a retirement package, would take it. “You are opening the door at a cost,” she said, and young people were not coming into the business.

There is also the problem that very few young people use the post office network, Mr O’Brien said, and most customers are middle-aged and older.

“We are trying to keep places alive,” he continued. “There is the Dublin economy and the rest of the country. There is a fierce struggle to keep rural Ireland alive.”