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Reinvigorate post offices, argues Laois TD Stanley

An expansion of An Post services is being sought

Laois Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Communications, Brian Stanley, has expressed his concern today over reports that 80 post office branches could close across rural Ireland

Stanley is arguing that the network of post offices needs to be reinvigorated by extending the services which they provide.

A review of the future strategy for An Post, as compiled by businessman Bobby Kerr is recommending the closure of 80 branches mostly in rural areas. The aim is to stem annual losses of up to €12m from the branch network of the state-owned body.

“Rural post offices across Ireland must be protected and their services enhanced,” Deputy Stanley says today in a press statement.

“The Post Office is a core component of the viability of small towns and villages. Removing this one service provider will have a negative knock-on effect for other services in the town. In Laois we lost Ballacolla Post Office and the one in Ballybrittas was in danger of closing last year.

“Rural Post offices have faced a series of threats to their viability over recent years. Funding cutbacks, the EU Postal Services Directive and the move by the Department of Social Protection towards electronic fund transfers in respect of social welfare and pension payments has meant the role of the Post Office has been undermined in Communities across the country.

“The reports today come alongside news of further bank closures in rural Ireland. The withdrawal of banking services from rural Ireland should represent an opportunity for An Post to expand the range of financial services that it offers.

“We need to reinvigorate the network of post offices by extending the services which post offices provide to include motor tax renewals, business rates, rents, and other Government payment services and by the retention of existing services such as social welfare payments

“The Government must also commit to stop discouraging people from doing their business at the post office by recommending direct banking transactions for Government payments.

“I welcome the statement from An Post that no final decision has been made and that the review is ongoing. Rural communities depend on these post offices.

“With Ulster Bank recommending the closure of one in four of its Branches, rural Ireland is under relentless attack and the Government needs to act to halt this decimation of communities. ”

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. Husband of Emily, father of William, Lillian and John, he's happiest when he's telling stories