The president of ICMSA has criticised the programme to close down a substantial number of rural post offices, saying that it was yet more evidence of the “yawning infrastructure imbalance” between investment in urban areas and rural districts.
Pat McCormack, who farms near Tipperary town, noted that there appeared to be a deliberate policy of applying the most crude cost-benefit analysis to any kind of rural infrastructure that contrasted with the “money-no-obje”’ approach that was adopted to astronomically expensive public investment projects for cities.
The Premier County will see eight post offices close under a deal worked out between An Post and the Irish Postmasters Union. Another post office will close in Moneygall.
Mr McCormack guessed that the annual cost of subventing all the rural post offices earmarked for closure would amount to “a few metres of Luas rail”, but that the State had evidently decided that spending on one element of the population was an unquestionable national priority while maintaining any kind of State presence in whole swathes of rural districts was too much of an inconvenience.
The ICMSA president also noted how unfortunate the timing of the announcement was, coming so close after the much-touted rural broadband roll-out had yet again run into contractual quicksand and lost still more of its dwindling impetus.
Mr McCormack said that the original plan had obviously been to have the broadband roll-out and post office closures overlapping so that the loss of access would be disguised.
That always looked unlikely and now looked positively impossible, he said.
“The Government simply cannot continue to pay lip service to rural communities. We are losing essential services and the Government is letting it happen and not putting in place viable alternatives,” said Mr McCormack.
As an example, he said that, in many rural areas and villages, people now had no access to cash facilities, pushing more and more economic activity into large towns and cities.
Convenient access to money promoteed economic activity and to counteract the closure of post offices in many rural communities ICMSA believed that publicly-funded cash points should be installed in these villages to assist local economic activity, he said.
Mr McCormack said that Government should also look at a range of incentives aimed at supporting and developing rural economic activity.
“The investment and infrastructure imbalance was always there, but in recent times it has widened to the point where rural dwellers are entitled to feel forgotten. Irish State investment and infrastructure desperately need rebalancing,” said Mr McCormack