Post office operators will not be forced to close, Minister suggests

Ahead of planned closures, Naughten says An Post will not be withdrawing contracts

Fianna Fáil intends to raise the proposed closures as part of the forthcoming budget process. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Fianna Fáil intends to raise the proposed closures as part of the forthcoming budget process. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Post office operators who wish to remain open will be able to do so, Minister for Communications Denis Naughten suggested on Wednesday night.

The Minister’s comments follow an announcement by An Post of 159 post office locations which are set to close in the coming weeks and months as part of a restructuring plan.

The greatest number of closures will be in Galway (18), followed by Donegal (17), Cork and Kerry (both 12), and Mayo and Wexford (both 11). Post offices in 25 of the State’s 26 counties will close as part of the plan, with Dublin being the exception. Mr Naughten has said all closures were made on a voluntary basis.

The Minister said An Post would not be withdrawing contracts, while independent reviews could also be sought.

“Anyone who wants to remain in it (operating a post office) will have a contract and we’ll have a contract available to them,” Mr Naughten told a public meeting at Athleague, Co Roscommon, according to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Pressed on the issue, he said he would not negotiate in public.

Mr Naughten rejected claims the reduction in the number of post offices in the west and midlands will then lead to the closure of dozens of small businesses and job losses.

He said during negotiations the Post Masters Union had sought two key measures; investment and modernisation of the service and a redundancy package. He said many post offices were losing money, with some having only 12 transactions per week.

“Now there is a clear plan of investment of €50million in new and expanded services which is the equivalent of €45,000 per post office being invested,” he said.

Speaking at the meeting, a shop owner said the Minister’s role in the closures “borders on treason”.

Diarmuid Duffy, a grocery store owner at Eyrecourt, Co Galway, predicted that if the village’s post office closes, his own shop will close within two years.

Mr Duffy said: “Politicians have a lot to account for and to answer for.”

The meeting was held in the heart of Mr Naughten’s constituency, where five post offices are scheduled to close, along with a further six in nearby east Galway.