Wednesday 28 September 2016

The post office is not just a place that sells stamps

Published 05/05/2014 | 02:30

Martin Canning, postmaster at Ballyvary Post Office in Co Mayo, with Mrs Katie Stenson and Mrs Sarah Deacy. Post offices have a large role in rural communities.
Martin Canning, postmaster at Ballyvary Post Office in Co Mayo, with Mrs Katie Stenson and Mrs Sarah Deacy. Post offices have a large role in rural communities.

POSTMASTERS across the country are engaged in a struggle to save the network of offices that are vital to the survival of many rural communities nationwide. The post office – along with schools, shops, pubs and churches – is at the heart of any living community. They provide vital financial and social services to people on modest incomes. But they are being buffeted by attacks from a number of directions and the very survival of the network is being called into question.

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There is no doubt that post offices haemorrhaging money cannot be sustained. All organisations have to live in the real world and pay their way. However, its unique social role within a community must also be taken on board when assessing the future.

The post office is not just a place to buy stamps; it is the place many rely upon to collect their weekly welfare payments and maintain contact with the world around them. It is a social hub with a very important economic role.

The people who operate post offices have seen their role being called into question and their incomes diminished in recent years. They are worried that recent deals with retail giants Tesco and Dunnes Stores could further undermine their income.

At the same time, the Irish Postmasters' Union (IPU) has come up with interesting proposals that could see the post office network becoming the basis for a new banking service nationwide. The proposals have the benefit of being aimed at serving people on lower incomes who are too often neglected when it comes to financial services.

On a more positive note, it was good to see the IPU patching up differences that emerged on Saturday in a procedural matter that saw non-delegate members being excluded from the conference centre in Tralee. Now is not the time for the IPU – one of the country's oldest representative organisations – to be consumed by internal disputes.

The union has big work afoot to save post offices across the country. The success or otherwise of this work will have a big impact on the future of vulnerable communities across this island.

The arguments being advanced by the IPU must be listened to. They concern everybody interested in the future of communities outside the bigger population centres.


THE thoughts and prayers of the entire nation are with the Heffernan family in Keel today as they prepare to bury their second child who has died from Batten's disease. Liam Heffernan, aged five, has joined his sister, Saoirse, who fell victim to the same disease in 2011.

The little boy, whose story had captured the public imagination, had a great zest for life and a passion for reading and learning about dinosaurs. He died in the arms of his parents, Tony and Mary, who left no stone unturned in their efforts to defeat the disease and win a new life for their much-beloved boy.

There are many life lessons to be learnt from this inspiring but heartbreaking tale. Many of us, befuddled by relatively trivial day-to-day affairs, can learn to see the bigger picture, count our blessings and try to enjoy the precious gift of life.

We can also learn much from the courage of a little boy and his sister dealt a cruel blow from the very start by this extremely rare brain disorder. We can take much inspiration from the response of the children's parents who took their child to New York for a special operation and treatment in hopes of finding a remedy.

Tony and Mary's tenacious work – which also led to the setting up of the Saoirse Foundation to support children with Batten's disease – inspired many across Ireland and beyond. Work such as this, and other similar efforts to help sick children, deserve all our support.

Irish Independent

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