Sinn Féin’s EU candidate for the Midlands Northwest Constituency, Matt Carthy, has said that the potential closures of hundreds of post offices would be devastating for rural communities and must be opposed.
Carthy, who 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, said that this was just the latest in a long line of attacks on rural Ireland.
“The post office is central to local communities and the service must be protected.
“However, Government policy, along with EU rules and regulations, is undermining the important role that that the local post office plays in small towns and villages across the state.
“Irish MEPs, including those based in the Midlands Northwest constituency, failed to stand up for the interests of Irish people in the face of liberalisation directives from the EU which are now posing a serious threat to the post office network.
“The EU Postal Services Directive which Fianna Fáil, Jim Higgins, Mairead McGuinness and Marian Harkin supported, forces the state to open up postal services to competition. This is likely to have serious long term detrimental consequences, particularly for the postal network in areas with a low population density. In addition there is a threat that social welfare contract payments may be put out to tender.The loss of social welfare services would be a major blow to the post office network and could lead to mass closures.
“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.”