'Everyone will be within 15km of post office', An Post chief promises rural communities
An angry backlash faces An Post, which is closing around 160 post offices while claiming that "everybody will live within 15km" of an outlet.
Rural campaigners said they were again being neglected and elderly people would be left completely isolated by the policy. The Taoiseach was warned "there is life beyond the Red Cow junction in Dublin" after it emerged that 161 post offices are set to close.
Leo Varadkar's Government stood accused of abandoning those without cars or public transport due to the closures.
The post offices are shutting because some postmasters accepted a voluntary exit package.
A deal they signed with An Post means communities of more than 500 people must have a post office within 15km of their home.
The CEO of An Post, David McRedmond, said yesterday that "everybody would live within 15km of a post office".
He said most of the closures will be in rural areas and will happen over the next six months. He said 161 post offices will close out of a network of 1,100 and there is unlikely to be many more closures.
But Leas-Cheann Comhairle Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher hit out at the Government over the controversy. He said 13 communities in Donegal alone will suffer from the closures under the An Post scheme, which was approved by the Government.
He accused the Government and An Post of a "cloak and dagger policy disaster" by failing to allow for replacement services if the postmasters went for the redundancy deal. He claimed rural-based ministers sitting at Cabinet were "asleep" when the scheme was approved.
"The Government must now at this late stage awake from its slumber and finally realise there is life beyond the Red Cow Junction in west Dublin," he said.
Fianna Fáil wants the communications department to roll out a public service obligation strategy to keep at-risk post offices open.
Policy and communications officer with Irish Rural Link, Louise Lennon, said she was concerned older people in particular will be stranded.
She said postmasters who are retiring should consider takeovers or downsizing their business and relocating in local shops. "There is one post office in Kerry and the local school is reliant on it because there is no bank. Teachers, school secretaries and students use it for lodgements and so on. That's an example of the reliance there is on them."
A spokesperson at the Irish Postmasters Union said it welcomed the plan when it was launched as the best possible deal that could be agreed.
An Post has said the number of closures is unlikely to rise above 161.