Kenny insists State is acting to keep post offices open

Clare GP warns ‘if the Government does not act, it will passively strangle post offices’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil that although the post office network had  been  reduced significantly over the past 15 years, it is still an important entity.  Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil that although the post office network had been reduced significantly over the past 15 years, it is still an important entity. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted the Government is acting to assist the post office network keep services open in local communities.

He rejected a claim by Independent TD Michael Harty that the Government had failed to support the network.

The Clare TD, a GP elected to the Dáil on the “No Doctor, No Village” campaign to save rural communities, said the Government had pledged to implement three major commitments but “waiting on reports is not going to save our post offices”.

He warned that “if the Government does not act, it will passively strangle post offices”.

Mr Kenny said, however, that the previous government had commissioned and supervised the investigation by businessman Bobby Kerr into the remit, range and potential of post offices.

He said: “We are not waiting on the report. The report has been done, conducted, published and is being acted on.”

He also referred to the case of a post office which was closed after 70 years.

No positive response

“When An Post enquired, in the local area, whether anyone else was interested in taking on the facility, there was no positive response from anyone,” he said.

Mr Kenny acknowledged that the network had been extensively reduced in the past 15 years but it was still an important entity.

Many post offices had suffered because of changes in communications and the way business was conducted, he added.

Minister of State Michael Ring, who was dealing with the issue, had established a group to look at possible options for the network in the future.

Extra suggestions

The Taoiseach said the group, involving postmasters and postmistresses, had met twice and “quite a number of extra suggestions beyond the Kerr report have been produced at its meetings”.

When Mr Kenny said the Minister of State would report its findings as soon as possible, Dr Harty warned that the waiting for reports would not save the network.

“There are villages without a post office, a doctor, a shop, a pub, a school or any commercial or social activity. Such communities are shells of their former selves,” he said.

The Clare GP said the Government pledged to establish a set of services through the post office network that would be available to the community at their local post office.

The provision of passports, applications for motor tax and driving licences could be processed through post offices, he said.

The Government also made pledges about a community-based banking system through the post office network and he pointed to successful examples, such as the Kiwibank in New Zealand and Sparkasse in Germany.

“Commercial banks have abandoned our towns and villages. Does the Government intend to abandon our post offices as well?” he asked.

Dr Harty warned up to 500 communities would lose their post office structure and pointed to projections by the Irish Postmasters’ Union that the income of the average post office would fall by 50 per cent.