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Sadness all round as Cullen Post Office closes

IT was children's allowance collection day on Tuesday, and the steady stream of customers through the doors of Cullen Post Office were all wondering if it would be the last time they transacted their business in their own village.

That's because Cullen Post Office closed on Wednesday and, as the locals wished postmistress Mary Forde a healthy and lengthy retirement, political pressure was building to ensure that the local applicant who wants to set up a replacement An Post agency in the village is allowed to do so.

Mary Forde has run Cullen Post Office for 35 years and she confirmed this week that, had the funds been available to do so 15 years ago, she would have participated in the first round of post office automation.

"Now there seems to be a drive on to computerise anyone that's left and, if you don't go with the flow, you more or less have to retire," said Mary.

At this stage in her life, nearing pension age, Mary decided against participating in automation and has taken the difficult but inevitable decision to shut up shop.

She was, ironically, extremely busy when we chatted with her on Tuesday, and she insists that, while post offices in larger towns and cities may have changed greatly over the years - they are still vibrant centres of the community in rural Ireland.

"It's very, very busy here," she said, admitting that this week will be tinged with sadness. "We always had wonderful customers. We will miss them and, maybe, they'll miss us a little bit too."

This Monday and Tuesday, Deputy Michael Moynihan was in contact with management at An Post to underline the need to maintain some service in Cullen.

"Residents have contacted me non-stop since the plans to close the existing post office became known," he said. "Elderly residents and isolated rural families of the community rely on the many excellent services of the local post office."

Meanwhile, The Fine Gael TD for Cork North West Michael Creed has called on Education Minister and Cullen native Batt O'Keeffe to personally intervene, saying: "The closure of Cullen post office is a major blow to the community. The suddeness of the closure and the reluctance by An Post to engage with the Cullen community in order to establish a replacement service has infuriated locals.

A petition signed by almost the entire Cullen hinterland has been forwarded to An Post this week - urging that the local applicant who has expressed an interest in operating an An Post agency in the village be allowed to do so, immediately.