Hundreds join fightback to keep post offices open
A RETIRED teacher has begun a new movement to heap pressure on An Post to keep the country's post office network open.
The National Post Office Users' Association (NPOUA) has only been in existence since early July but already has over 800 paid-up members.
Founder and chairman Michael John Kilgannon, a former teacher from Woodlawn near Ballinasloe, Co Galway, said he felt it was up to people who depend on their local post office to fight the threat to the network.
Mr Kilgannon feels the threat to post offices is n0w even more grave than the closure of garda stations.
"The post office is a community service that is used every day so the case for keeping them open is even stronger," he told the Irish Independent.
Although his movement has similar objectives to the Irish Postmasters' Union (IPA), he says his organisation is truly independent. It is only for the post office-using public, and for that reason, he says, postmasters are not allowed join.
The IPA has already said it fears the closure of around 500 post offices amid concerns over moves to have social welfare payments paid directly into bank accounts.
An Post has also revealed it has entered talks with SuperValu and Dunnes Stores about locating 'Post Points' within their stores.
These would offer many of the services currently available at post offices.
But it raised fears that people would no longer be able to walk to their village post office.
Mr Kilgannon feels a move by An Post to relocate some of its services to chains like Tesco is a "cynical" move designed to get people spending more in the supermarket.
He says An Post should instead be looking at expanding the services it offers, and should be able handle things like motor tax renewals through its network.
Around 60 people attended the first meeting of the NPOUA in Gullane's Hotel in Ballinasloe.
But now it has over 800 members each of whom has paid a membership fee of €2.50, mainly from the Ballinasloe postal area.
Mr Kilgannon is hoping other communities around the country will now get on board.
"The issues are the same from Donegal to Cork," he said.
"We're hoping to hear from other people who are concerned about the future of their post office."
The NPOUA says it intends to seek a meeting with An Post management and has planned action that will make it "sit up and take notice". Last April more than 1,000 people protested about potential post office closures.
And in May this year the Irish Independent revealed more details of the controversial plan to open 'Post Points' in supermarket chains.
But An Post's retail operations director John Daly insisted that there were no plans to shut down post offices, when he appeared before an Oireachtas committtee.
"An Post does not have a plan or proposal to close post offices. Nor is it part of our business strategy that we allow post offices to close by stealth. In fact, the opposite is actually true," Mr Daly said.
"If we don't go into these retailers, the competition will grow against us," he added.