A ‘Save Donard Post Office’ protest in which a hearse, tractor and a collection of 4 x 4 vehicles were driven to Leinster House on Tuesday, met with a not entirely good-humoured response from politicians.
The speeches began with an address in which Philipp Matuschka, of the Save Donard Post Office, campaign said the “Government should be making life in rural Ireland more attractive and not less attractive”.
Mr Matuschka followed up each of his points with expressions of “shame on the Government” for alleged “premeditated destruction of our villages” and a “lack of understanding of the needs of the people” as well as a “misuse of public money”.
Wicklow TD and Minister of State for Forestry Andrew Doyle, who was one of three Wicklow TDs present for the address was then asked to respond and stepped forward amid a number of calls including the words: “Andrew Doyle - here, Andrew Doyle”.
At this point the Minister appeared to take grave exception, remarking loudly to Mr Matuschka that he was indeed present but was “not a dog”.
Mr Matuschka responded “I’m sorry Andrew” and followed this with: “We do not like the way we are being treated either”.
Mr Doyle then returned to his companions repeating his displeasure.
“I’m not a dog” he said. Mr Doyle had earlier told The Irish Times he had made a submission to a review committee asking for Donard Post Office to be kept open. While the review had not spared the post office Mr Doyle had continued to make representations, the latest submission made in recent hours, he said.
Next up to address the crowd was Wicklow Sinn Féin TD John Brady who delivered an impassioned speech, blaming Fianna Fáil for failing to prioritise the post offices issue in that party’s negotiations with Government.
He told the crowd the village of Donard, Co Wicklow, would decline and he predicted further closures, including the local caravan park and pub. Locals had only two weeks to make their feelings known to Fianna Fáil as the confidence and supply deal which was keeping the Government in power was being discussed.
“I am throwing down a gauntlet to Fianna Fáil here today,” he said “. . . It is time to put up or shut up.” Of the chances of the post office getting a reprieve, he said: “It is over to Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael. If it doesn’t happen you know where the blame is.”
Wicklow TD Pat Casey however displayed an even temperament. The loss of a rural post office had happened to his community and he was against it happening again, he said. However his party was exploring the possibility of securing a Public Service Obligation, an EU–approved method of subventing rural community services, for the post offices. The Fianna Fáil party was the party of “credible alternatives” rather than a party of “just political opportunism”, he said.
Under rationalisation proposals, An Post is planning to close some 150 post offices but plans to ensure that nobody would live further then 15 kilometres from their local office. The Save Donard Post office campaign said its convoy, led by a hearse, had travelled from Bohernabreena to demonstrated how far15 kilometres is. The campaign said the hearse was symbolic of the death of rural Ireland.