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Oireachtas Report: Tom Neville questions Athea inclusion in An Post closures

Tom Neville raised impending closure of Athea post office in County Limerick

Tom Neville raised impending closure of Athea post office in County Limerick

The impending closure of Athea post office in County Limerick was raised at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Change & the Environment, by Fine Gael Deputy Tom Neville.

“This is one example of active participants who are looking to take up the post office in the area but we are being told it will probably close because the population is under 500 and the 15 km rule is coming in as well,” he said.

“How was the figure of 500 decided? Was it the specific census figures or was it the town boundary? If we went slightly outside the town boundary or out to the speed limits, we could start picking up 500. The population is on the brink of that figure.”

Deputy Neville said Athea has been given money by the Government towards a sewerage scheme and development in the last year and a half. The town is going to progress and there will be future development there.

“There is also good broadband access available in the town and further investment has come in for flood relief and so on,” he said.

“There are all these services going in from the Government but An Post is pulling out.

“Would it not make more commercial sense for An Post to start looking at towns on a broader scale than just population and distance?

“It should look at all the other amenities, services and investments that are built around a town. In two, four, or five years' time, as the town progresses, An Post could make a commercial gain there, and there are active participants looking at taking up the licence.”

If a place is doing 12 transactions a week, it is not commercially viable, he agreed.

However, this was a particular place where there is good investment, a good future and bright prospects. “The removal of the post office will hit this town. It will hit all that momentum.”

In reply, Minister Denis Naughten said there is a review mechanism built into this. “It is so that those specific, individual cases which may not be known to the company can be looked at independently of the company,” he said.

“That is why there is a mechanism for local retailers to contact An Post if they believe they can offer some or all of those services in their own local communities. That can be independently reviewed by this team.

“The mechanism is there because there are specific and unique circumstances in individual communities which it is not possible to foresee in relation to the statistics. I encourage those communities to make submissions and let the independent team look at the position.”

Plebiscite on directly elected mayor

The Minister of State, John Paul Phelan, will bring forward proposals on directly elected mayors in this Dáil session, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil.

“The rough idea at the moment is to hold plebiscites in Limerick, Cork, Waterford and Galway to ask the people if they would like to have a directly elected mayor,” he said.

O’Sullivan seeks restoration of school capitation grant

The relationship between a family and a school should not be financial, it should be educational, Labour Deputy Jan O’Sullivan told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills.

“When parents think of school, they should be able to think of the educational and social development of their child and it should be a positive idea in their heads rather than the financial pressure,” she said.

“I support the restoration of the capitation grant to the level that it was at pre-2010 when it was cut,” she said. “I think the State can afford to do that now.”

Regarding ending voluntary contributions, there is a need to find out the costs of necessities as opposed to what might be considered added extras, she said.

“Transition year must be treated as a necessity if all children are to be able to participate in it. The idea that so-called voluntary contributions are going towards necessities that the State can afford needs to be addressed in our recommendations.”

Funding has been allocated to allow schools to set up book rental schemes, she said.

“In my experience, by and large, schools where parents have less income are very good at setting up book rental schemes.

“Perhaps I am wrong but it seems that they are the schools that make the effort to set up book rental schemes because they know that parents require them.

“There are schools that do not have book rental schemes where the majority of parents might be able to afford it but where there will always be families who cannot afford it. I would like to ask the managerial bodies in particular why all schools do not have book rental schemes.”

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