POSTMASTERS have welcomed the contract from the Department of Social Protection to provide over-the-counter cash transactions, but warn that there is a danger to the future of 400 offices in the longer term.
The Irish Postmaster's Union, which represents more than 1,000 postmasters around the country, said it was heartening to staff that the 1.7m customers who use post offices every week would continue to be able to do so.
But union general secretary Brian McGann warned that, while this was important, in the immediate future "serious danger lurks. The network could be devastated by current Government policy."
If the Government presses ahead with its drive for all social welfare payments to be delivered electronically, he added, the income of post offices would be "devastated".
"The social welfare contract accounts for some 35pc of post office business and if this is lost it will be catastrophic for the network and communities both urban and rural."
Mr McGann said there was a "total contradiction between the Minister's alleged commitment to the network and what is being advanced very speedily by the Minister [Joan Burton] and her Department."