Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, has described An Post plans to close 159 post office branches across rural Ireland as an absolute scandal that must be resisted.
Galway is the worst affected county with 18 rural post offices to be shut down as part of the programme. Carthy, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee, said that the announcement is the latest outworking of decades of attacks on Ireland’s rural post office network overseen by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments.
“The confirmation from An Post that it intends to close 159 post office branches across rural Ireland (18 in Galway ) is an absolute scandal that must be resisted.” he said.
“Local post office branches are a vital element in the sustainability of many small towns, villages and communities across Ireland. But our rural post office network has been under sustained attack in recent years.”
He said that this has included the closure of many branches, funding cutbacks, the decision of the Department of Social Protection to move to the electronic transfers of social welfare and pension payments, and of course the EU Postal Services Directive that prevents governments from adequately subsidising this essential public service.
“The vital community role of the post office network has been ruthlessly undermined by successive Irish Governments as well as the EU. The EU Postal Services Directive, which was introduced with Irish government support, means that all EU Member States must inflict aggressive competition from private companies on their post office network.
MEP Caerthy said that the EU Postal Services Directive remains a key threat to the long term survival of Ireland’s rural post office network but despite my appeals on Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to join Sinn Féin in working towards its repeal they have refused to do so.
“Sinn Féin supports the campaign to retain local postal services across Ireland.
As a first step additional financial and statutory services should be delivered through the post office. But, we also require a fundamental policy change and a rethink towards how services are delivered to and for rural Ireland. “This week’s announcement makes it clear that Fine Gael is not up to the task of delivering this necessary rethink. Neither are Fianna Fáil who, despite their faux outrage this week, actually oversaw the closure of 288 rural post offices between 2005 and 2010.
“The proposed post office closures announced this week must be resisted or they will be followed by others. Rural Ireland cannot take much more. It is time for us to shout ‘Stop,” he concluded.