Thursday 20 June 2019

Gurteen pin hopes on postal review

Sorcha Crowley

The much-awaited independent review of Gurteen Post Office may take place this week.

The villagers are pinning their hopes on the review changing An Post's decision not to renew the contract with Gurteen Post Office once current Postmistress Fiona Tansey retires.

A similar review of Cliffoney two weeks ago resulted in their Post Office being offered a new contract for the next three years.

An Post spokesperson Angus Laverty said the reviews take place up to 28 days from once they're requested.

"They've underestimated Gurteen," said spokesperson for the Save Gurteen Post Office group Fiona Tansey.

"The problem is they don't realise what Gurteen is. They just don't realise that it's growing and developing, it's a thriving community," she said.

"We're trying to make them see what type of town we have. There are 165 people who travel into Gurteen for work every day. Green Isle employs up on 50, we employ 25, The Hill Hotel employs 13. These statistics are very relevant," she told The Sligo Champion.

The Centra supermarket owner pointed to all the local businesses and facilities the town has, including retail, healthcare, a new five teacher school with 125 children and a new funeral home on the way.

She said Gurteen Post Office had between 1,000-1,100 transactions a week: "It's hard to see how that's not viable."

Their campaign involves sending letters to An Post calling for the independent review and post cards to RTE broadcaster Joe Duffy.

They've also painted a van with their slogan: "A Post Office, not a Ghost Office."

Gurteen is one of six post offices earmarked for closure by An Post last week.

All of the postmasters/postmistresses are taking the voluntary retirement package.

They include Ballinfull and Monasteraden which are already closed, Dromard near Beltra is closing possibly in October, Ballinafad past Castlebaldwin is closing at the end of the year, while Drumcliffe and Gurteen post offices don't know when they're closing yet.

Dromard postmistress Eva Kelly is retiring in October after 43 years service.

Her customers were not surprised: "They knew at this stage that I have to retire. I can't go on forever. Nobody else is interested in taking it over but Beltra post office is near so they're quite happy," said Eva.

Ballinafad postmistress Eileen Carty will shut her post office at the end of December after almost 32 years.

"I'm really going to miss it because I'm closing the shop as well but I just didn't see any future in it. The business was going down, it isn't there. The people aren't there," she told this newspaper.

She told all her customers and there was "shock and disbelief." "Social Welfare write out and say go to the bank. All my customers are middle-aged and older, there are very few young people," she said. Eileen took over from her mother-in-law 32 years ago and reared four children there with her husband Louis.

She believes Ballinafad "will be a dead village" once she closes both shop and post office. "You're not just a post office - we're like a tourist office. People come in looking for everything. It is going to be a big loss and I feel sorry for the people but I've to think about myself," she said.

In Monasteraden, former postmistress Winifred 'Freddie' Foley is adjusting to retirement after 18 years service.

Monasteraden post office was hampered by poor broadband which made customer transactions almost impossible.

"It was horrendous. We had no signal. I couldn't even get MidWest Radio. They'll close rural Ireland down and build a forest," she said.

"Our village has deteriorated over the years. At one time it was a lively village but it's got a hacking over the years. It's kind of lonesome now," she said.

Sligo Champion