In a response to recent revelations indicating that up to 400 rural post offices could be facing closure, Deputy Colm Keaveney has remarked that closing these local services could prove detrimental for social and environmental costs. "It is critical that in dealing with our current fiscal difficulties that we remember that the calculation of the cost of any reforms must include external factors such as social or environmental costs. In this case, rural post offices form a vital part in our rural communities and the calculation of the savings from any reform must take the social costs of the closure of post offices into account.”
The potential closures have prompted national discussion following the changes that have been made to payment methods in the Department of Social Welfare. The Irish Postmasters Union (IPU ) has indicated that it has no objection to people being given the option of receiving payments electronically but believes that people should still have the option of collecting them from their local post office if they wish. Any move to make all payments electronic would result, the IPU claims, in a catastrophic drop in the earnings of rural postmasters and could render rural post offices obsolete.
Deputy Keaveney concluded: "The IPU have put forward proposals whereby post offices could take over the management of certain Government and local authority payments such as motor tax payments. This would preserve the post office network and save local authorities much needed monies and represents a win-win for communities and for local authorities. With the closure of many bank branches, such as the Ulster Bank branch in Glenamaddy, there is also an opportunity for the post office network to be enabled to fill that gap and offer banking services, either on their own behalf or as agents for the private banks, and again preserve the vital infrastructure of rural life.
I will be raising these matters with both the Minister for Communications and with the Minister for Social Protection this week. A coherent plan for the future of the post office network is needed."