The decision by An Post to close local sorting offices in parts of north Cork and to centralise operations has already led directly to post office closures, a local postmaster has said.
Rockchapel postmaster Henry Keogh, whose family has run local post offices since the 1890s, said local postmasters were working 55 hours a week but still could not pay their bills.
The decision by An Post to open a mail-sorting centre in Boherbue, near Kanturk, last year had hurt local postmasters badly, he said. "It has indirectly closed a couple of post offices. The person in Millstreet resigned. She couldn't afford to stay open. Somebody took it over on a temporary basis. Knockagree is closed or in the process of closing. Half of post offices are on way below the minimum wage.
“We would like to be doing more but we can’t invent services,” he said, adding that the company’s staff have been left frustrated “by the commissioning of report after report by An Post”.
Management should instead concentrate on investing in "abandoned" communities. "We are sick of reports. The reports are only ever ignored. We are in contract. We can't go looking for our business," he told The Irish Times.
Mr Keogh said the sorting of mail by postmen in small local post offices such as Rockchapel,
, Kiskeam and Balllydesmond had been worth between €5,000 and €8,000 a year.
Last November, An Post was ordered by Cork County Council to cease mail sorting operations at Boherbue because of a planning breach. However, the situation has since been resolved. An Post began sorting mail there last August.
Contrary to public belief, the crisis is not just in rural post offices, according to Mr Keogh. “All post offices are suffering. We are all in the same position. The Government has decided that we are simply not worth the trouble.
“The Government commissioned the Kerr report on what should be done to bring post offices forward. When it was published they simply ignored it and commissioned another report. There was a very detailed report commissioned by the Irish Postmasters’ Union a few years ago and that was ignored.”
He added that the decision to consolidate mail sorting at Boherbue had taken a quarter of his business, while income for the Rockchapel post office was already falling by 10 per cent per annum.
Cllr Gerard Murphy, a former Cork North West Fine Gael TD, said the decision to consolidate mail sorting at Boherbue was ill thought out.
“As predicted, we have had huge repercussions. Small villages are going to be left without a shop or a post office. Once the current postmaster/postmistress resigns many post offices will be closed because it is highly unlikely that anybody would want to take over.”
An Post said the Boherbue operation was a “purpose-built factory-type setting” that has been successful and has brought efficiencies and improvements .