Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Eamon Scanlon says the Fine Gael government must demonstrate its commitment to rural Ireland by offering a new form of Public Service Obligation payment for post offices to ensure they remain economically viable.

Deputy Scanlon raised the issue in a Dáil debate this week.

“Communities across Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon do not want to lose their local post offices – that is the clear message coming from the many public meetings held across these counties, and indeed right across the country, calling for post office services to be retained”, said Deputy Scanlon.

“Hundreds of people have turned out for initial meetings regarding closures and hundreds more are signing petitions, with a continuous flow of letters being submitted to appeal the loss of services.

“These potential closures come in the wake of the loss of Garda stations, shops, banks and small schools, and for many is the last straw in this relentless Fine Gael attack on rural communities.  There is no ATM in the majority of villages in my constituency, and the loss of post office services will further devastate the heart of these communities.

“Post offices are important strategic state assets which play an invaluable role as the centre point of community and commercial activity in rural Ireland.  There are many businesses that rely on the custom that post offices command – many people tend to shop in the town or village where they receive their payments – and these businesses could be put at risk if the post office is closed.

“Accessibility is also a huge concern – many older people may not be able to make the 15km journey to the nearest post office.  People who are unemployed or have a disability and people living in areas where public transport is virtually non-existent will also find it incredibly difficult to access another post office.

“These proposed closures will downgrade already disadvantaged villages; it will lead to job losses, will damage local businesses and affect many members of the community.

“I support a new form of Public Service Obligation model, whereby post offices that are not commercially viable but which serve a community would be identified and provided with state funding, on the condition that they provide a range of state services to their communities.

“This would ensure that communities could continue to access state and community services, while also ensuring postmasters can earn a decent living.  Unless Fine Gael adopts this policy, it is condemning rural Ireland to the past”.