There’s nothing that causes more local political angst than the perilous situation of a local post office. No matter how far-flung, no matter how low the local headcount, even the people who never darken the door of the post office will miss it when it’s gone.
So the prospect of a permanent solution to the recurring constituency head-wreck will be sweet music to the ears of TDs as they travel up to Dublin today for the parliamentary week ahead.
If the new funding system successfully goes through – and it has yet to negotiate the whitewater ride of the Cabinet – it will help to suppress the dissent and dissatisfaction that can easily unseat a deputy.
There is also the wonderful prospect of being able to posture at the next election as belonging to the Government that finally acted to save the fragile rural infrastructure of this State.
That’s one in the eye of the Rural Indep- endent Group, for instance, who are loud in their insistence the Government has sold out the people down the country – and they themselves are their only vindicators.
A successful subsidy scheme would soon take the wind out of the sails of those claimants, particularly since government TDs would be able to point to power wielded well at local level.
It’s a prize almost akin to draining the Shannon, such has been the age-old call to defend the community post office, the last bastion of country life.
It’s true that many a rural pub has gone to the wall while the banks have largely vamoosed from all but county towns.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has pointed out that almost everyone does their banking online these days, and the Government cannot interfere with the commercial decisions of such bodies, because declining footfall makes it unreasonable to keep branches open.
He’s right, of course, but his stance can look a little heartless when tens of thousands of people around the country honestly fear tumbleweed will soon come blowing through their own little patch.
So a sudden intravenous financial drip from the Government to postmasters and postmistresses will be widely welcomed.
In many cases, the former bank is being turned into a remote working hub because, suddenly, very many people have chucked
the capital and returned to their roots – or actively sought out country living – after the pandemic opened their eyes to what’s important in life.
Similarly, the sudden visitation of hundreds of Ukrainian refugees on small towns and tiny hamlets across the country is a shot in the arm for rural life.
As they put down roots, having a responsive post office from which to organise their lives will be a lifeline for many new arrivals.
In realising the opportunities to be grasped, Junior Minister for Postal Services Hildegarde Naughton is to be congratulated in proposing direct financial subvention to operators in order to keep communities alive.
It’s a move that will almost certainly pay off for everyone, including the State itself.