EARLIER this month, the Northside was hit with another major blow. The postmaster in Montenotte Post Office has resigned and no replacement can be found. The post office is to close on June 30.
This is the third post office in the area in the last two and a half years to close. The north-east, in particular, has been stripped of services over the last number of years. This is just the latest in a long line.
Unfortunately, what I’m hearing on the ground is that this won’t be the last.
Post offices right across the Northside are at risk of being closed. Each of these are at the heart of their communities. For many elderly, and vulnerable people, they are a link to their area and an essential service.
While much of business has shifted online in recent years, we can’t overlook the fact that there is still an important place for post offices in our communities. During Covid-19, we saw the post network revitalised as people rediscovered sending letters to loved ones to stay in touch.
Between 1999 and 2011, governments led by Fianna Fáil saw the closure of 755 post offices. From today, post offices will see a 20% cut in state and government funding.
While a Pandemic Fund has been established, Grant Thorton have warned that from today onwards, we will see unrestrained waves of post office closures.
With revenues rapidly declining, the current offers being put to postmasters are neither profitable nor credible. They are just paper exercises.
Twice, the position of Postmaster in Montenotte was advertised, but nobody wants to jump onto a sinking ship. The only way to save post offices is to stand up to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
We can’t allow them to continue to push post offices from the heart of our communities into shopping centres and centralised locations. This doesn’t work for the most vulnerable in our society.
Elderly people use their post office for so much more than just collecting pensions. It is a social outlet, somewhere to get information, and for many people the last connection they have to their community.
We cannot allow that to be stripped away.
We need to stand together now because the closure of the post office in Montenotte won’t be the last.
Last year, the Irish Postmasters’ Union commissioned a report that recommended a Public Service Obligation (PSO) be introduced to secure the future of the network and allow post offices to continue to provide excellent services, which are particularly important in rural Ireland.
Sinn Féin fully support this call. In fact, we have been advocating for a PSO to secure the future of the network for more than a decade now.
Post offices provide a crucial service and with two major banks now closing hundreds more branches, people will become even more reliant on their local post office.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are sitting back and watching communities be stripped of their resources.
The 2016 Kerr Report made a number of important recommendations in relation to the future viability of the post office network, including increasing the financial and government services available.
In addition, An Post’s ‘Green Hub’, a one-stop shop for people looking to access energy efficiency grants and funding, has potential for growth in local post offices.
While additional banking services are on the horizon, on their own they will not be enough.
The Irish Postmasters’ Union say that the day of reckoning has arrived for the Post Office Network, and if funding is not provided immediately, significant closures will soon follow.
Government TDs in Cork North Central have stayed resolutely silent as we await yet another post office closure in our constituency.
They may be eager to support these post offices in name, but when it comes to real action, Fianna Fáil are backtracking on their promise. During a debate on a Sinn Féin motion in 2018, Fianna Fail agreed to bringing forward a PSO.
This commitment must now be delivered upon, now that the post office’s transformation payments are coming to an end. That cliff-edge is fast approaching.
We need to pull together as communities and send a clear message.
Our post offices here in Cork aren’t up for grabs!