THE closure of a post office in a rural village has forced a widow to cycle for more than two hours to collect her pension.
Claire Jennings (66), from Cappataggle, Co Galway, said she had been left isolated as a result of the closure.
Last week Ms Jennings, who has arthritis, had to cycle the 16km round-trip to New Inn to collect her pension.
The journey took her more than two-and-a-half hours.
"I have no other choice. Nobody was free to bring me and there is no bus stop in the village," she said.
"If I got a taxi it would cost me at least €20 to get to New Inn and back. I can't afford to spend that."
Ms Jennings said she was dreading having to make the same journey every week.
"I set off at 3.30pm and it was after 6pm when I got home. I'm still tired," she said.
The pensioner said the post office had not only been a vital service but also a much-needed lifeline.
"I'm on my own and there's nobody to help me. I'm just stranded now. There's nothing here for anyone any more," she said.
"I'm so sorry that it's gone, I was really surprised, people were always in the post office."
After the closure on December 31, customers from Cappataggle had to travel to New Inn or Kilconnell which are both nearly 8km away.
Local councillor Tim Broderick warned that the closure of the post office was destroying the heart of the community.
"People locally feel disappointed and let down. The heart of the community is being threatened by this. I don't think An Post realise the consequences of their actions," he said.
"It's now costing them €20-a-week in travel costs to pick up their pension of €220. It's a huge chunk from the funds that they were just getting by on."
Local people held a protest outside the post office in the run-up to the closure, while retired schoolteacher Michael Kilgannon (74) began a hunger strike in the hope that it would be delayed.
While his battle proved unsuccessful, he is determined to continue fighting for the service.
Members of the community have also contacted their local TDs, Denis Naughten, Noel Grealish and Michael Fitzmaurice, who have agreed to raise the matter in the Dail.
They are seeking a moratorium on further closures and a review of recent ones.
"An Post must tell people what is in its plan. Every rural community in the country is living in fear of this happening to them," said Mr Broderick.
"This community is not going to simply accept this - the post office might have closed its doors but we will fight to have them re-opened."
Since the post office closed, the acting post-mistress has been storing items belonging to An Post for pick-up after no senior staff arrived on the day of closure.
An Post said the closure of Cappataggle's post office had followed a community consultation and the decision was taken on the basis of that.