Rural post offices at risk with deal
Post office operators voted by a large majority to accept a deal expected to result in the eventual closure of many small rural post offices.
Members of the Irish Postmasters Union (IPU), which represents 90pc of people running the nation's post offices, voted by 80pc last Friday to accept a deal with An Post.
Ned O'Hara, the general secretary of the IPU, said last night attention will now turn to the implementation of the deal.
The deal means hundreds of postmasters can choose to close their post offices under a compensation deal.
New contracts will be offered to 690 post offices that An Post considers to be an integral part of the network.
Around 390 post offices will be offered an exit deal. Most are based in rural areas or are smaller post offices, deemed ineligible for the new contract based on the scale of transactions at each premises.
The deal is optional. Those postmasters who choose not to accept the offer will continue to operate as normal under the terms of an old contract.
Sources said about 150 postmasters are expected to agree to the exit deal.
Chairman of the Independent Postmasters Tom O'Callaghan said despite the result postmasters offered the new contract should seek legal advice.
He said postmasters have been offered very little assurance about the renewal of a vital contract with the Department of Social Protection to issue welfare payments in post offices.
Debbie Byrne, managing director of An Post Retail, said: "The acceptance of this historic deal between the IPU and An Post is extremely positive and now allows An Post and Postmasters to work together to deliver a sustainable and bright future for the communities we jointly serve."
Postmistress Beatrice O'Riordan, based in Quilty, County Clare, said the lack of support from the Government and An Post has meant these small rural hub post offices "are going nowhere fast".
She said her post office is one of hundreds of post offices listed as "non-viable" but she has vowed to keep open in the years ahead.