Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has said the closure of 159 post office branches is the result of a legacy of rural marginalization by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.
The Ireland South MEP, whose constituency will see the loss of 66 of the branches, said the parties were hiding behind the voluntary nature of the closures to avoid taking responsibility for decades of rural under-funding, isolation and exclusion.
“The closures may be the immediate result of a voluntary retirement scheme but make no mistake, the circumstances that have caused this to happen are a direct result of a litany of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael failures when it comes to supporting rural Ireland,” she said.
“While this is the certainly the biggest blow rural post offices have been dealt in one go it comes after years of closures and downscaling across the country. Our rural post office network has been under attack from consecutive governments for decades. Fianna Fail alone oversaw the closure of 288 rural post offices between 2005 and 2010.
“The vital community role of the post office network has been ruthlessly undermined by successive Irish Governments as well as the EU.
“The EU Postal Services Directive, which was introduced with Irish government support, means that all EU Member States must inflict aggressive competition from private companies on their post office network.
“The EU Postal Services Directive remains a key threat to the long term survival of Ireland’s rural post office network but despite my appeals on Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to join Sinn Féin in working towards its repeal they have refused to do so.
“What they fail to understand is that in rural communities post offices are not just for stamps and envelopes. They are local community hubs, often parts of shops and other vital services.
“It’s simply unacceptable that people will now be expected to carry out upwards of a 30km round trip to use their “local” post office. Especially at a time when the government continues to attack public transport and refuses to reign in unscrupulous car insurance costs.
“Our post office network needs reviatlised, not put down.
“Their operations could be expanded to include providing government and local services or they could form the basis for small scale, community banking systems such as those in Europe or New Zealand.
“They should be looked at for the potential they offer, not viewed as handy cut for the Government to make because they have again failed to balance their books.”