Fianna Fáil signals opposition to post office closures
Opposition wants ‘public service obligation’ placed on An Post to preserve the service
Fianna Fáil intends to raise the proposed closures as part of the forthcoming budget process. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Fianna Fáil has indicated it intends to oppose a plan to close 159 small post offices in rural Ireland and warned the Government that it will raise the issue as part of the forthcoming budget process.
The Fine Gael-led minority Government needs Fianna Fáil support to pass the budget, which is to be announced on October 9th.
Fianna Fáil says it wants a “public service obligation” placed on An Post to maintain the post office network at its current strength, “supported through an agreed annual subvention to protect and preserve the current service”.
Following the announcement by An Post earlier of the locations of the closures, Fianna Fáil communications spokesman Timmy Dooley wrote to Minister for Communications Denis Naughten, warning that there were an “appreciable number of people in communities who will experience significant disruption to their lives if the reputed closures take place”.
Mr Dooley said the proposed model for maintaining services in villages with populations of more than 500 people, and so that people would not be more than 15km away from a post office, was “unacceptable”.
“If implemented,” he said, it would “place an intolerable burden on many people including the older and more vulnerable members of rural communities that have already suffered service loss of Garda stations and smaller schools during the economic downturn”.
He said the “promise of rural broadband since 2012 remains just that, a promise. Public transport is extremely sparse and the mass closure of post offices will disproportionately affect those who don’t have access to private transport.”
Mr Dooley also warned that while An Post “views the post office network viability in profit and loss terms”, the Government should “ensure that the post office network is extensive enough to meet the needs of citizens”.
“It is the responsibility of Government to provide services to rural dwellers,” Mr Dooley said.
Mr Naughten said on Thursday night those running post offices who signed up to a voluntary parting package could not change their mind and stay in business. An Post, however, was “prepared to engage with other retailers about providing some or all of their services”.
It was important to point out, he added, that nearly two-thirds of post offices decided to stay in business. They were aware of new banking and financial services, and of Government services being directed through post offices, the Minister said.
An Post will shortly advertise for contracts to run five new post offices and says it is currently filling 36 vacant post office contracts.