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O’Neill outlines her support for rural post offices

23 August, 2011 - by Michelle O'Neill

Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill today met with Consumer Focus Post to discuss developments in postal services and the post office network in the north of Ireland.

At the meeting the Minister outlined her desire to support rural post offices and to ensure the needs of rural communities are fully considered as part of the future provision of postal services in the north.

Highlighting the valued contribution of post offices to local community life, Minister O’Neill said: “Within rural communities the local post office is more than just a service provider. It is a place to meet up with neighbours and catch up with local news. This opportunity for social interaction is of enormous benefit to some of the most isolated and vulnerable groups in rural areas and can help address feelings of exclusion and isolation.”

Referring to the challenging commercial market in which post offices operate, the Minister continued: “I am aware that in some areas the sustainability of the local post office is under threat due to an increase in the use of electronic services and online transactions. Doing business in this way brings benefits to those who can avail of it, but there are still many in rural areas who rely on the over the counter service traditionally provided by the post office.

“The Post Office local services initiative which allows postal services to operate from the property of an established village shop is currently being trialled in a number of locations throughout the North. However, I have concerns about the lack of privacy afforded to users under this model and the reduction in the range of services being provided in rural areas.”

She concluded: “This was a useful meeting with Consumer Focus Post and, like them, I am keen to see local communities getting more involved and taking the initiative in coming up with solutions to help secure the future of their local post office services. I am committed to doing what I can to assist this process and will be writing to the Minister for Postal Affairs highlighting my concerns. I have also asked officials to explore what support might be available to maintain a sustainable level of provision in rural areas.”

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