Post Office Closures a Source of Rural Gloom

Sean Maher and Dermot Keys Report

Rural communities in Waterford and Kilkenny are coming to terms with further post office closures, as the axe set to swing on both the Kilmeaden and Ballinamult branches, with services set to cease in Mullinavat tomorrow (Wednesday), August 8th. Kilmeaden’s Postmaster made the decision to close having discovered the local branch didn’t meet the criteria for a €50 million funding Transformation Programme designed to save the country’s rural post offices. This is due to its being located within 15 kilometres of other post offices in Cleaboy, Portlaw, Tramore and Kilmacthomas – the area has also less 500 houses, which is the threshold to qualify for funding.“A huge effort went in” to keep the service alive, according to local Councillor John O’Leary (FF). “We met with the directors of An Post on a number of occasions and we impressed upon them the hardship this would cause. It means now that people from Dunhill, Kill, Butlerstown and Fenor will have to travel over 10 miles to their nearest post office.” Meanwhile, over 250 people attended a public meeting in Mullinavat on Thursday last, where the impact of the pending post office closure, following a near century of service, was described as “an attack on Rural Ireland”.

Maureen McEvoy, a local pensioner who spoke at last Thursday’s public meeting about the future of Mullinavat Post Office: “How will I get my pension payments without any public transport available,” she asked.								| Photos: Sean Maher

Maureen McEvoy, a local pensioner who spoke at last Thursday’s public meeting about the future of Mullinavat Post Office: “How will I get my pension payments without any public transport available,” she asked. | Photos: Sean Maher


The meeting, which was chaired by local Councillor and Kilkenny County Council Chair Eamon Aylward (FF) was reminded of the pending retirement of Postmistress Mrs Anna Quinn, whom, along with her family, have provided decades of great local service, handling social welfare and pension payments. Mrs Quinn has availed of the voluntary retirement package negotiated between An Post and the Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU). However, those attending last Thursday’s meeting said they would fight the planned closure.
The meeting heard views from across the political spectrum, including Minister of State John Paul Phelan (FG), who told that no subsidy could be given to Mullinavat Post Office as it was a private business. Minister Phelan also referenced the closure of the Inistioge facility which had been reversed after a period of time – such a scenario could also apply in Mullinavat, he added.
A Fine Gael document seen by this newspaper over the weekend, taking the 2002-10 period (when Fianna Fáil led the government) and from 2011-16 into account (when FG held office), distinguished between the number of post office closures.

Between 2002 and 2010, 10 post offices closed in Waterford, while 24 such facilities closed their doors in Kilkenny. Between 2011 and 2016, one post office closed in Waterford while none were shut in Kilkenny. Interestingly, the document did not include the 2016 to 2018 period, in which Fine Gael has also held office.
Fianna Fáil TD John McGuiness said the news was a hammer blow for rural communities, who claimed the Government’s main concerns “were centred around banking,” something which was of cold consolation to the local community. His colleague Bobby Aylward said extensive contacts has been made with those in authority on this issue, but that the feedback “hadn’t been positive” throughout the process, having been directed to engage with the independent reviewer.

Cllr Eamon Aylward (Chair of Kilkenny County Council) chaired last Thursday night’s meeting and is pictured with Fianna Fáil Deputies John McGuinness and Bobby Aylward.

Cllr Eamon Aylward (Chair of Kilkenny County Council) chaired last Thursday night’s meeting and is pictured with Fianna Fáil Deputies John McGuinness and Bobby Aylward.


Cllr Eamon Aylward, along with fellow Councillors Tomás Breathnach (Lab) and Fidelis Doherty (FG) were all supportive of locals’ desire to retain their service, as was North Kilkenny-based Cllr Pat Fitzpatrick, who also addressed the meeting. A working committee is to be formed to create a submission to save or re-launch the service, while local Centra proprietor Niall Mulhearn helpfully stressed his willingness to take over the service and to provide floorspace for it. Among the passionate contributors form the floor was local resident Maureen McEvoy, who has never driven a car and now lives in an area where public transport is practically non-existent. “They (An Post and the Government, one can only suspect) are shutting down rural communities,” said another speaker. “These decisions are destroying a cultural that has existed in Mullinavat’s case for nearly a hundred years.”

According to Waterford TD Mary Butler, the likely closures in Kilmeaden and Ballinamult represented “a direct assault on both communities”. She was commenting after it emerged that An Post had offered voluntary redundancy to their post masters/mistresses. “Post masters and post mistresses are entitled to take voluntary redundancy,” she stressed. “They have given years of dedicated service to their local communities, and should be able to retire with a fair financial package. However, this cannot be used as a backdoor way to post office closures.”
She added: “Taking away the State harp from over the door signals the State’s withdrawal from the village and effectively tells people that they State no longer sees that village as a viable place to live and work…Post offices cannot be viewed in the same way as other commercial enterprises. Viewing their viability through the prism of simple profit and loss equations ignores the real impact of post offices in rural communities. “I am very concerned about how these changes will affect older people in particular. They are not as digitally literate as younger generations are and they, as a result, rely on the local post office to go about their daily business.” Deputy Butler believes the Government initiate a Public Service Obligation (PSO) “to keep these at-risk post offices open and to maintain the post office network at current levels”.

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