160 post offices set to close in months with rural areas most affected

A number of communities in rural parts of Cork and Kerry are set to lose their local post office after An Post announced 160 closures nationwide.

Among those most inconvenienced by the restructuring plan are people living in Allihies, West Cork, where customers will face a round trip of almost 22km to reach the nearest alternative in Eyeries.

The closure of Rockchapel in north Cork will mean a 20km round trip to Brosna.

In Kerry, the closure of Ballinskelligs will mean a round trip in excess of 25km to Waterville.

However, in Swanlinbar, Co Cavan, customers face a round trip of of almost 30km to reach Ballyconnell, the nearest post office.

The closures, which will take place over the next five months, are on foot of a voluntary retirement package, under which postmasters will receive an average payment in excess of €50,000.

An Post said closures are only taking place in areas with a population under 500 people, within 15km of the nearest alternative outlet, and where the volume of business is so small as to be unsustainable.

As many as 360 post offices met the criteria, but as the retirement package was voluntary, just 160 subscribed.

Business of post offices due to close will transfer to neighbouring post offices.

Arrangements for transfer of social welfare payments will be posted in each of the post offices listed for closure over the next two weeks.

An Post said it will also seek to ensure that PostPoint services (such as stamp sales, bill payment, and mobile top-up) are available from retailers in locations where existing post offices are closing.

The newly configured network will focus specifically on:

- E-commerce, offering the fullest range of parcel and mail services including out-of-hours collections, returns, tracking, and redirection;

- Community financial services, to include loans, credit cards, and more foreign exchange products; local banking in association with the major banks; and a full range of State savings products in more locations;

- Post offices becoming one-stop-shops for Government services, including licensing, payments for local authorities, fines, and planning applications; digital ID; and authorisations.

Debbie Byrne, managing director of An Post Retail, said it had done “painstaking work combining business and demographic data with extensive local knowledge to produce a network plan which actively supports the future of rural Ireland”.

She said it fully acknowledges the process “will be difficult for some customers and communities but the end result will be a strengthened, viable post office network”.

Timmy Dooley, the Fianna Fáil spokesman on communications, said the “radical closure of a significant section of the network fails to meet the State’s obligation to support rural dwellers”.

I expect this matter to be addressed in full as part of Budget 2019 discussions with the minister for finance, and I will be further raising our party’s great concern directly with [Communications Minister Denis] Naughten.

In May, the Irish Postmasters’ Union passed a ballot to support a new plan for the post office network.

The voluntary retirement package was included as part of it.

The closures will reduce the post office network from 1,111 outlets to about 950.

An Post is also planning to open five new outlets.

Here are the locations of the closing post offices:

By Catherine Shanahan
Health Correspondent

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