Friday 23 March 2018

Leadership favourite throws rural areas a post office lifeline

Leo Varadkar and Heather Humphreys in Mullingar. Photo: APX
Leo Varadkar and Heather Humphreys in Mullingar. Photo: APX
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Every community will be within a defined distance of a post office under Leo Varadkar's plans for rural Ireland.

Mr Varadkar wants to examine a mechanism similar to the one applied to GP services, whereby there must be a post office within a certain radius of a village.

It comes amid expectation that hundreds of post offices are set to be closed down or scaled back in the coming years. At the launch of his 'Catch-up Strategy for the Ireland Left Behind' Mr Varadkar said the postal service faces an uncertain future.

Mr Varadkar said, if elected taoiseach, he will seek to "more or less guarantee the existence of a certain number of post offices".

He could not say what the radius would be set at but noted the current contract between An Post and the Department of Social Protection says 95pc of the population should be within a 15km radius of an office.

Mr Varadkar launched his plan in Mullingar alongside Rural Affairs Ministers Heather Humphreys and Michael Ring, who have both backed him in the leadership race.

Among his 12 priorities for rural Ireland are broadband, increased funding for roads and a motorway and a dual-carriageway network to Donegal.

Mr Varadkar rebuffed accusations from opponents he has not costed his major infrastructure projects.

"These are projects that have been planned and promised for a very long time. What I have done is set out exactly how I think it can be achieved through a change in the debt reduction target," he said.

And the minister hit out at Simon Coveney's claim that the Government should focus on developing an Ireland 2040 plan before making specific commitments.

"The Ireland 2040 plan that Mr Coveney has put at the centre of his pitch doesn't exist yet. Nobody has seen it," he said.

Mr Coveney focused his electoral campaign in Munster yesterday where he insisted the battle is far from over.

"Leo is a very talented politician and if he wins, he'll make a good leader of Fine Gael.

"But I believe I would make a better leader and I believe I can take the party in a direction that not only the Fine Gael party membership would be comfortable with, but is a direction that a lot of people outside Fine Gael would be comfortable with," he said.

Fine Gael parliamentary party endorsements for leader

The Fine Gael parliamentary party makes up 65pc of the total electorate.

That makes each of the 73 members' votes worth 0.9pc of the total ballot.

Of the remaining electorate, 230 party councillors account for 10pc, while the remaining 25pc is rank and file members.

Leo Varadkar
Simon Coveney

Total: 45

Total: 19

Ministers: 17

Ministers: 5

TDs: 16

TDs: 5

Senators: 11

Senators: 8

MEPs: 1

MEPs: 1

Richard Bruton -MinisterSimon Harris - Minister
Frances Fitzgerald - MinisterDamien English - Minister
Michael Ring - MinisterDara Murphy - Minister
Eoghan Murphy - MinisterDavid Stanton - Minister
Sean Kyne - MinisterMarcella Corcoran Kennedy - Minister
Joe McHugh - MinisterKate O'Connell - TD
Helen McEntee - MinisterMaria Bailey - TD
Charlie Flanagan - MinisterSean Barrett TD
Paul Kehoe -MinisterHildegard Naughton - TD
Patrick O'Donovan - MinisterPeter Fitzpatrick - TD
Regina Doherty - MinisterTim Lombard - Senator
Mary Mitchell O'Connor - MinisterJerry Buttimer - Senator
Paschal Donohoe - MinisterPaudie Coffey - Senator
Heather Humphreys - MinisterJames Reilly - Senator
Pat Breen - MinisterColm Burke - Senator
Catherine Byrne - MinisterJohn O'Mahony - Senator
Andrew Doyle - MinisterPaul Coghlan - Senator
John Paul Phelan - TDGabrielle McFadden - Senator
Noel Rock - TDDeirdre Clune - MEP
Tony McLoughlin - TD 
Alan Farrell - TD 
Michael D'Arcy - TD 
Tom Neville - TD 
Josepha Madigan - TD 
Pat Deering - TD 
Jim Daly - TD 
Brendan Griffin - TD 
Ciaran Cannon - TD 
Colm Brophy - TD 
Peter Burke - TD 
Fergus O'Dowd - TD 
John Deasy - TD 
Joe Carey - TD 
Neale Richmond - Senator 
Catherine Noone - Senator 
Paddy Burke - Senator 
Martin Conway - Senator 
Michelle Mulherin - Senator 
Maura Hopkins - Senator 
Ray Butler - Senator 
Frank Feighan - Senator 
Maria Byrne - Senator 
Joe O'Reilly - Senator 
Kieran O'Donnell - Senator 
Brian Hayes - MEP 
Enda Kenny - Outgoing Party Leader *Martin Heydon - Party Chairman *
Michael Noonan - MinisterMichael Creed - Minister
Bernard Durkan - TDSean Kelly - MEP
Mairead McGuinness MEP  

* Outgoing leader Enda Kenny and party chairman Martin Heydon will not make an endorsement

Irish Independent

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