Last post sounds in Bally

Still no indication if An Post will consider relocating to Heaphy's

Dónal Nolan

The stark reality of State policy towards the rural post office network hit Ballylongford this week as the local service closed its doors on Main Street for the last time.

It's the latest in a long, sad litany of decline that has transformed the famous village from a once-thriving centre of commerce to a quiet place today: a handful of pubs, one supermarket, a butcher's and a garage now make up village trade.

But the committee members tasked with fighting for the future of the postal service they believe vital for the future of the village have not given up yet. And they have a very strong argument demonstrating that Ballylongford should never have been slated for closure in the first place.

The community is now fighting for the post office to be relocated to Heaphy's Supermarket, where owner Noel Heaphy is waiting for word from An Post. The GPO has until October 4 next to reply to Ballylongford's demand to retain its service.

"We're the only parish losing both our post offices as Asdee is to close in January, which is very unfair" Noel Heaphy - one of the eight on the committee leading the fight to save the post office -  told The Kerryman. 

"But when you take the population criteria by which An Post is closing post offices, you can see how wrong it is. Villages of fewer than 500 people are losing, but the boundaries they are using are the speed limit zones. While fewer than 500 might live between the 30-mile signs in Ballylongford, the parish actually has a population of 1,530. 

"I'm waiting to hear from An Post now in response to an application to retain the post office in the supermarket, as Minister Denis Naughten indicated he would consider for post offices when questioned before the public accounts committee recently.

"And if you take a 10km-radius around the shop, there's 2,500 people living there. I don't think Listowel either will be able to manage amid the closure of Ballylongford, Asdee, Athea, Moyvane and Banemore.

"I'm deeply worried about the effect of the loss on our community but also from a point of view as a trader. We have the footfall now to make it more than viable, but if we lose it completely I fear the effect on my business as people travel to Listowel and elswhere," Mr Heaphy said.

Meanwhile, all paid glowing tribute to outgoing postmistress Jennifer Allen in a surprise presentation to her on Friday at the closure. None fault her for retiring amid so much uncertainty and so many challenges for the business. 

"We want to wish Jennifer the very best, as she was extremely helpful to all of her customers, helping with every query and serving Ballylongford with great dedication," Maria Hanrahan O'Neill said.