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Postmaster calls for government subvention to save rural post offices


‘WE PROVIDE A SOCIAL SERVICE’Aughagower Postmaster, John Pat Scott

Anton McNulty

A POSTMASTER has called on the government to introduce a subvention scheme for Post Offices to prevent the closure of further post offices in rural Ireland.
Last week An Post confirmed that over 160 post offices in Ireland are expected to close after postmasters applied for a voluntary retirement package. In Mayo, there were 12 post offices on the list - Ballindine, Ballyglass, Belcarra, Carrowmore Lacken, Cross, Doocastle, Finney, Geesala, Hollymount, Kilmaine, Partry and Scarduane.
Ballindine Post Office is due to close its doors this Friday, August 10 and many of the other post offices on the list are also expected to close. An Post confirmed that Geesala Post Office will remain open with Pat Gannon, the Postmaster in Foxford, to take over following the death of its former Postmaster, Michael Henry in June.
John Pat Scott, the Postmaster in Aughagower Post Office and Chairman of the Ballina/South Mayo branch of the Irish Postmaster’s Union, told The Mayo News that unless the government intervened, further closures of rural post offices will be inevitable.
“In the last three years, 84 percent of post offices have recorded a drop in their income. With the rise of the economy, there has been less people claiming the dole and we have lost out because of that. The closures are a huge blow to rural Ireland and the government have to come in with a subvention for rural post offices to survive.
“We are not just about business, it is a social service which we provide. On Friday, there is interaction between the pensioners, which for many is the highlight of their week. The government needs to intervene because otherwise there will be more rural post offices closing,” he said.
An Post said it has committed to the proviso that communities with over 500 people will have a post office and that over 95 percent of the population will be within 15km of at least one location.
Mr Scott said the 15km scenario seems to be An Post’s ‘get out of jail answer’ when it comes to post office closures but felt it does not offer a solution to west of Ireland communities where there is a poor public transport system.
Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh said An Post’s retirement deal is a very worrying development for rural communities and called on the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten to intervene.
“An Post has an integral role in servicing communities and these areas will be seriously impacted as a result. This is happening under the nose of Minister Naughten and if he is serious about reversing rural decline then he must intervene to save these post offices from closure.
“A plan must be put in place to allow that a post office remain in its own premises or for another local business to take it over. Our post office network is a vital piece of social, community as well as business infrastructure which must be protected if rural Ireland is to thrive,” she said.