Sunday 19 August 2018

Revealed: More than 100 rural post offices facing closure under retirement deal

‘Covert plan’: Fianna Fail TD Marc MacSharry. Photo: Tom Burke
‘Covert plan’: Fianna Fail TD Marc MacSharry. Photo: Tom Burke

Robin Schiller and Philip Ryan

Over 100 rural post offices could face closure under a retirement scheme brokered as part of an agreement between An Post and the Postmasters Union.

It has emerged that An Post has received applications from 110 post offices across the country expressing interest in the voluntary retirement package.

While no compulsory closures of post offices are planned, it is understood that An Post will assess the applications and determine where retirements can be facilitated and their transactions consolidated to other local offices.

Last night there were fears that post office workers who take retirement from low-volume post offices will not be replaced, resulting in closures.

Around 12 post office contractors have already asked to be allowed retire with immediate effect and these will be facilitated over the coming week.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry last night accused the Government of taking a break during the Dáil summer recess "while their latest policy to decimate communities plays out".

Mr MacSharry represents the Sligo-Leitrim constituency where up to eight post offices face closure as part of the retirement scheme.

"While the provision of a retirement package for long-serving postmasters and mistresses is welcome, the agreement between the Postmasters Union and An Post must not be used to enforce post office closures in rural communities all over the country.

"It is now clear that the agreement struck between An Post and the Postmasters Union is a covert plan to shut more than 100 post offices nationwide under the cover of providing a retirement package to retiring post office masters," Mr MacSharry told the Irish Independent. "The Varadkar vision of phasing out rural communities must be stopped. The relentless pursuit of policies by Fine Gael in Government to shut down rural communities is reprehensible and is destroying the cultural fabric of communities that have existed for many hundreds of years."

Among the counties facing most closures are Donegal, where 13 postmasters applied for the retirement scheme, and Cork, where 11 post offices will be assessed for suitability.

In Meath, two post offices - Batterstown and Drumree - could potentially be closed as part of the scheme.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Sligo Councillor Declan Bree said: "The post office is an essential part of the fabric of every rural community. It is a focal point, a centre of activity and a community hub. It unacceptable for An Post to close down these post offices."

"The plans to close down the rural post offices in Co Sligo including Ballinfull, Dromard, Gurteen and Monasteraden, will be resisted," the Independent councillor added.

In April An Post announced plans to modernise the post office network following a breakthrough deal with postmasters.

It included an investment of €50m in growth and modernisation of network and new formats for better opening hours as well as better-located post offices.

Irish Independent

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