Communities must not let go of postal services too easily
A school, a shop, a pub, a church, a garage. Put together a variant of any or all of these and you have a rural community that you can call a hamlet, a village or even a town.
But for any of these to continue and flourish, the post office can never be far away. The post office brings more than mail. It is the place where elderly people collect their weekly pension, parents collect the children's allowance and people avail of a host of other small financial services geared to their needs. For all our social media, in very many places the post office remains the beating heart of the economic and social community.
Last month we learned that An Post was doing a deal with the retail giant Tesco to provide post office services at their shops.
Yesterday at Leinster House, An Post revealed that they are working on similar partnerships with Dunnes Stores and SuperValu.
An Post management insist that these changes do not mean more widespread closure of post offices. But the Irish Postmasters' Union, local community activists, and others defending rural and provincial post offices, have very reasonable grounds to doubt these assurances.
In fairness, the bosses at An Post have to cope with the fundamental economic changes. They have long ago been told that they must live with market dictates.
But on the other side of the equation, others raise valid concerns about the death of rural and provincial communities. The simple fact of geography is that many towns and villages are, and always will be, a round trip of between 30 and 50 miles away from the bigger centres where you find Tesco, Dunnes or SuperValu.
If those places lose the post office, as they may well do, that is too far a distance to go to buy a postal order, get some stamps, collect the pension or other welfare entitlements.
That would be another hammer blow to our rural communities.
People must wake up to the simple reality that they must use the Post Office services and avoid making their closure too easy. The 'use it or lose it' principle will be paramount from now on.
Rural Ireland has already lost too many of its schools, shops, pubs, churches, and garages. It will lose many more if it loses too many post offices.