Rural groups furious over plans of large-scale closure of post offices and banks
Rural groups have reacted with fury to threats of large-scale closures of post offices and bank branches.
President of Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) John Comer described as "utterly bewildering" the Government's policy towards rural Ireland following revelations a report on An Post proposes the closing of 80 post offices.
He was also annoyed that Ulster Bank could shut one in four of its branches.
Mr Comer noted that just weeks ago the Government launched its Action Plan for Rural Development.
"We have to see the Irish State committing to all the citizens regardless of where they live or how far they are from Merrion Street," he said.
A report for the Government by businessman Bobby Kerr recommended the gradual closure of post offices that are making the largest losses.
Management of An Post has not made any decision to close branches, but is considering a range of options to make its branch network viable.
There are currently 1,300 post offices around the country, and the semi-State company is losing up to €12m a year from its branch network.
An unpublished report put together for the Government outlines a range of proposals, including shutting 80 outlets.
An Post stressed the proposals to close down 80 post offices did not come from it.
"We are currently completing the first detailed, in-depth review of the post office network for many years," it said.
"This review will take into account shifting demographics, the changing marketplace for services and the economics for postmasters.
"No decisions have been made while this review is ongoing."
An Post said its intention is to produce a plan for a commercially viable and self-funded network which will meet the needs of citizens across the State.
It expects the work to be completed within the next couple of months.
The issue caused deep concerns within political circles yesterday, with Independent Alliance TDs Seán Canney and Kevin 'Boxer' Moran now seeking answers from their Fine Gael colleagues.
Labour Party deputy Willie Penrose said the level of planned closures revealed by this newspaper could cause "devastation" in rural communities.
Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath said the loss of post offices would be the latest blow for areas outside the capital.