Two villages survive planned post office closures

An Post bows to community pressure in Cliffoney, Co Sligo and Ballycroy, Co Mayo

Villages have until the end of this month to formally seek a review of a closure. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

Villages have until the end of this month to formally seek a review of a closure. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

 

Two villages have survived the planned closure of 159 post offices as part of restructuring at An Post.

Cliffoney, Co Sligo and Ballycroy, Co Mayo had fought the shutdown of their post offices.

An independent review process, denounced in the Dáil last week as “rigged”, upheld the original An Post decision to close Cliffoney. The State-owned company bowed to community pressure, however, and granted a reprieve on the basis that its population was close to 500.

An Post had said its cull of post offices, mainly in rural areas in the west, midlands and southeast, would target those within a 15km radius of another post office or that serve a population of less than 500.

The post office at Ballycroy was found to have had no neighbouring outlets within 15km.

An Post will advertise for replacement postmasters in both villages.

A total of 33 appeals have been lodged countrywide. Villages have until the end of this month to formally seek a review of a closure. Eleven villages have been told by An Post that their appeals have been unsuccessful. They include Mullinavat in Co Kilkenny, Ballindine in Co Mayo, Aughavas in Co Leitrim, Inverin in Co Galway, Ballylongford in Co Kerry, Kiltealy and Ballywilliam in Co Wexford, Gurteen and Ballinfull in Co Sligo, Collinstown in Co Westmeath, and Culdaff in Co Donegal.

Population and distance

Reviews have yet to be completed for post offices in Ballinskelligs in Co Kerry, Doonbeg in Co Clare, Belcara in Co Mayo, Athea in Co Limerick, Kileshandra in Co Cavan, Rathmoylon in Co Meath, Kilnaleck in Co Cavan, Donard in Co Wicklow, Dunkineely in Co Donegal, Ballingarry in Co Tipperary, Lissycasey in Co Clare, Kilmeaden in Co Waterford, and Geashill in Co Offaly.

The appeals are being assessed by Paddy McGuinness, former chief executive of the Western Development Commission, and Tom Hobson, an adviser and consultant.

They are judged only against An Post’s own criteria for earmarked closures, based mainly on population and distance from neighbouring post offices.

In the Dáil last Thursday, Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry accused An Post of ignoring submissions from Gurteen and Ballinfull, in Sligo, that put their population as higher than 500.

“The process was rigged from the beginning,” he said.

Mr MacSharry said a decision was made on Ballinfull three days before the village delivered its submission to An Post.

“Ballinfull was thrown under the bus and there are 1,000 people there. An Post also will not clarify how it calculates population for a substantially rural area,” he said.

‘Mickey Mouse’

“Ballinfull is not a village. The post office served 21 townlands with more than 1,000 people. Gurteen is a substantial village, it is a small town really, but we are not listening to the people there either.”

Mr MacSharry said the Government “is standing over a Mickey Mouse superficial process”.

“It is sending communities to go out and act like fools, myself among them. They put together well thought-out submissions with the facts on population and a community’s commitment to its post office, and it does not matter.”

Minister of State Sean Kyne said former minister for communications Denis Naughten was assured by An Post that the detailed submission from Ballinfull was “taken into account before the final determination issued”.

Angus Laverty, public affairs manager at An Post, said: “In general requests for reviews are coming from community groups, either one set up specifically to look after this issue, or an existing community council.

“But we have also had appeals from individuals, from local politicians, national politicians and also local business people.”

An Post will not accept requests for a review after October 31st.

To date, 42 of the 159 targeted post offices have closed, with another 24 expected to shut by the end of this month. The remainder will close in January 2019.