Rural Post offices need government support - Carthy
The Sinn Féin member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee, Matt Carthy, has welcomed the report authored by Bobby Kerr which includes a recommendation that isolated post offices across the state should receive up to €20,000 a year in government subsidies to stay alive. However Mr. Carthy said that the survival of rural Ireland, which includes the network of local post offices, requires a committed government strategy that has been sorely lacking from recent administrations.
The Midlands North West MEP said,
"Fianna Fáil allowed almost 200 post offices to close during the closing years of their time in government. There have been a further 24 post office closures since 2011 and hundreds more are under threat despite the rhetoric of Fine Gael and Labour politicians.
"The report published by Bobby Kerr proposes subsidising loss-making or struggling post offices for between two and three years, to allow them develop themselves into a viable business, co-locate with another business or fold.
"These proposals, it is hoped, would also encourage branches to increase the number of services they provide and include giving post offices the ability to sell insurance, process motor tax, and to link up with credit unions. Some of these proposals would require a serious change in government approach to both rural Ireland and the post office network.
"While the proposed measures will be welcome if implemented, investment into our rural post offices is not just about increasing services for the rural areas but also protecting those living there from increasing levels of loneliness and isolation.
"Of course, I recognise this report has serious limitations. This is primarily a short term solution for a long term problem. After the two to three years, post offices would be expected to find alternative sources of revenue to remain viable.
"The Government needs to develop a long term solution to protect and enhance rural services. Instead of instigating a 'sink or swim' scenario for post offices we need a long-term government strategy for rural communities which must include a vibrant post office network. Their record confirms that neither Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil are up to that task."