There are concerns five Co. Tipperary rural communities face permanently losing their post office service as a result of a voluntary retirement scheme being offered by An Post.
Clogheen, Ballingarry, Gortnahoe, Littleton and Moyne/Templetuohy post offices are on a leaked list of 112 post offices throughout the country where the postmaster or postmistress have applied for the voluntary retirement package.
An Post has stressed there will be no compulsory closure of post offices but there are concerns contractors from rural post offices with a low volume of transactions will not be replaced resulting in closures.
Cllr Imelda Goldsboro from Ballingarry said the An Post retirement scheme was another attack on rural Ireland and pointed out that the loss of Ballingarry Post Office would have a huge detrimental social and economic impact on her community.
She said people from her area would have to travel to Killenaule, Mullinahone, Urlingford or Callan to to avail of post office services if Ballingarry Post Office closes. This would be difficult for many elderly people and those without their own transport, she pointed out.
Independent TD Mattie McGrath said the planned closures were part of an agreement reached between the Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) and An Post earlier this year. He described it as just another aspect of the " contempt for rural Ireland that is poisoning all levels of central government policy".
"This list of proposed closures is a damning indictment of the utter ruthlessness that kicks in when it comes to rural Ireland," he declared.
Cllr Goldsboro criticised the retirement/redundancy package An Post is offering post office contractors on this list. If they accept the package, she fears An Post will not offer the post office contract to any other shop or individual in the community, effectively closing the service.
She said it was very unfair of An Post to put the onus for the survival of rural post offices back on individual postmasters and postmistress. "After 30 or 40 years service they should be allowed to retire at their ease," she said.
An Post responded that there will no compulsory closure of post offices in Co. Tipperary and pointed out that neither national nor county figures for post office closures have been confirmed.
"Any figures circulating are speculative and not from official sources," she said referring to the list of 112 post offices released by Senator Robbie Gallagher.
A spokesperson said An Post reached an agreement with the Irish Postmasters Union in April following a period of intense research and planning to come up with a plan to save the "seriously loss making" post office network.
She pointed out that the contractors offered the voluntary retirement package are all in offices with "very low" transaction levels.
"As part of the agreement, voted on and accepted by postmasters, a voluntary retirement scheme was made available to contractors in post offices with particularly low levels of business. Some postmasters have wanted this for a considerable time. "
"The closing date for those applications was Tuesday, July 31 and An Post will now assess those applications and decide how the business in those offices – small as it is – may best be transferred to a neighbouring office, bolstering transactions for that post office."