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Friday 22 March 2019

An Post facing legal action over plan to shut 'thriving' branch

Upset: Residents of Gurteen, Co Sligo, show their support for keeping their post office open. Photo: James Connolly
Upset: Residents of Gurteen, Co Sligo, show their support for keeping their post office open. Photo: James Connolly

Ralph Riegel

A thriving Sligo community is to consider taking a judicial review to save its local post office, after accusing An Post of ignoring its own viability guidelines with a controversial closure campaign.

Hundreds attended a protest meeting last night in Gurteen, amid local fury over An Post's decision to close the village post office on February 28.

The decision followed a six-month campaign in Gurteen to save the post office, which prompted An Post to concede three deadline extensions.

Fiona Tansey, of Tansey's Centra Supermarket, said that the decision made absolutely no sense and threatened the area with a devastating economic blow.

"An Post is ignoring its own guidelines - that is what we cannot understand," she claimed. "Last year, when An Post said that 159 rural post offices would close, it promised no office would close where there was a local population of 500 people or more.

"There are 512 people living here in Gurteen, the local school has expanded over recent years from three teachers and 90 students to five teachers and 116 students.

"We have just got a new chemist shop and carried out a study which showed that there were 1,500 transactions carried out per week at our post office."

The threatened closure of Gurteen post office will force people to travel more than 12km to Ballymote for services.

Ms Tansey claimed that An Post "has refused to engage with us. A study was carried out on Gurteen post office and we believe it was favourable. But we have been refused all access to the study".

Ms Tansey pointed out that An Post had even refused to engage over plans for an outlet co-location.

"We are pleading with people to see sense. We have lobbied politicians, staged public protests and even spent €3,000 on a legal opinion."

Now Gurteen community is considering a judicial review.

Last year, the local community organised a campaign to save the local post office, with the theme: "Post office - not ghost office - don't let their threat become a reality."

An Post unveiled the rural post office closure campaign last year after a deal had been hammered out between the semi-state company and the Irish Postmasters' Union following years of disputes.

A spokesman for An Post last night said the protocol in coming to the decision was adhered to.

"There's an established protocol there to help us make a decision like this. It was followed in the way the decision was made," he said.

"There's a step-by-step process and that was all followed."

He added: "There's 152 post offices that closed under that scheme, Gurteen will close at the end of this month."

Irish Independent

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