Sinn Fein’s EU candidate for Ireland South has said that the potential closures of hundreds of post offices would be devastating for the communities that they serve.
Ms Ní Riada was commenting following the publication of a report from the Irish Postmasters Union which states that the postal network will have declined by 48% by 2017.
One of the major the reasons for the undermining of the position of the post office network is the possible of loss of social welfare services to electronic options offered by the government.
Ms Ní Riada said:
“The post office is central to local communities and it is necessary to ensure that the service is protected. In many rural communities the post office is a focal point for social interaction and closures are regarded as increasing the level of isolation and loneliness.
“Of course an electronic option should be offered. But we must also be mindful of a large demographic that cannot access this option due to a whole range of reasons, not least the underdevelopment of our broadband network.
“The Irish Postmasters Union and the Communication Workers Union have both stressed that An Post ought to be protected against attempts to downgrade or to privatise and pointed to the opportunities that exist for the postal service and post offices to expand their range of activities. For example, the recent spate of closures of bank branches makes the post office an attractive alternative for financial transactions.
“Sinn Féin supports the retention of social welfare payments in Post Offices, as part of a wide suite of financial services, to help ensure their viability.
“The potential closures highlighted by the unions would have devastating social consequences for rural communities in particular.”