Rural TD threatens to withdraw Government support over post office plans
The stability of Government has again been put in doubt after an Independent TD said he will withdraw his support from the coalition if it pushes ahead with plans to close hundreds of post offices across the country, writes political correspondent Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.
Rural Independent TD Dr Michael Harty, who supports the Government from opposition, made the threat as he warned the "trust" of rural communities across Ireland has been broken.
Under the minority Government deal agreed in the Dáil last year, Fine Gael, the Independent Alliance and two unaligned independents - Katherine Zappone and Denis Naughten - entered coalition with each other.
However, while the coalition was "facilitated" by Fianna Fáil from opposition, it was also to be supported in Dáil votes by a small number of opposition Independent TDs on a case by case basis.
One of these TDs, Dr Harty, did so on condition guarantees were put in place to protect rural Ireland.
However, speaking to reporters today, the Clare TD said wide-scale plans to close hundreds of post offices across the country mean he is now "putting Government on notice" it cannot retain this support.
"I feel Independent TDs put a lot of effort into the programme for partnership government, and central to that was support for our post offices network.
"We have asked questions on the floor of the Dáil to the Taoiseach on a number of occasions and I haven't got a satisfactory answer.
"I'm putting the Government on notice that if in the future postal services are not supported, then they [Government] won't have my support," he said.
Asked if he means he will withdraw his support for the coalition, Dr Harty said "absolutely".
However, he confirmed he has not given Government a deadline to resolve the issue by, and has none in mind at this stage.
Dr Harty accepted "not every post office in this country can survive", but said the deal he struck with Government last year means all post offices should be advertised and that wider rural services must be protected.
Speaking at the same media briefing, rural Independents colleague and Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath said there has been a "deliberate" attempt by Government to avoid responsibility for supporting rural Ireland, adding that people in rural areas are "just as important as those here in Dublin".
Fellow Independent and Cork South West TD Michael Collins said there has been "a continuous eroding of rural services" which risks a situation "where we [rural communities] can't survive".