'We feel like we are under attack'

Dónal Nolan

One Kerry community is contesting the population An Post says it has in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to retain its service.

More than 100 concerned citizens attended an emergency meeting in Ballylongford on Wednesday in response to the looming closure of its post office under the latest rationalisation plans by the semi-state.

An Post has meanwhile confirmed to  It is feared that up to ten of the county's most rural offices will close. An Post has said that communities of more than 500 will have a post office and that over 95 per cent of the population will live within 15km of an office after the round of closures.

"We feel that we are under constant attack by the State and that if we lose our postal service that we might as well put gates up at either end of our village and walk away.

We can't allow that to happen," local man Brian Finucane - who organised the meeting - said.  The community is now urging An Post to allow Ballylongford retain an office. The local Centra, the last surviving shop in Ballylongford, has flagged its interest in pursuing the possibility of opening a post office as part of its overall range of services.

"It's a vital service to our community, and the population does support it. We have well over the 500 population required under the An Post criteria, and what we are looking to do is bring people back into the fold of An Post."

An emergency committee was formed at the meeting to fight for the service and will ultimately, Mr Finucane suggested, canvass business among the parish for An Post in a bid to make Ballylongford as attractive as possible for the semi-state firm.

"We will be asking people to go back and use their post accounts or open new ones," Mr Finucane said. Ballylongford Enterprise chairman Noel Lynch echoed Mr Finucane's feelings about the demise of the village: "We had a population of up to 1,000; 30 shops, three supermarkets, a thriving hardware business and mill, with cargo ships coming into Saleen 50 years ago. But it's a chicken-and-egg scenario now, as we're told we can't have services because we don't have the population, which we don't have because we've lost so many services."