WEST Cork’s rural post offices are being put under pressure to shut up shop, and they are using people power to fight back.
Ballydehob postmistress Bridie Roycroft has come out fighting after receiving an ‘exit offer’ from An Post.
Bridie believes the closure of the post office in Ballydehob would be ‘a death sentence for the village’ and she appealed to the community ‘not to let that happen’.
Bridie has put up posters around the village letting her customers know: ‘Ballydehob post office needs your business to make it viable.’
She has also convened a public meeting for the Community Hall at 8.30pm on Thursday, May 17th.
Fine Gael TD, Jim Daly, confirmed that at 137, Cork county has the highest number of post offices outside of Dublin and that 48 of these have been offered the exit package and redundancy deal.
He said: ‘A significant number of those may be located in West Cork, but the numbers for the region have yet to be determined.’
Deputy Daly pointed out that if a postmaster/mistress accepts the exit package, the contract for the post office would be re-advertised.
‘The successful applicant would then be given a new contract that would see them paid on a fee basis for every stamp sold, and every payment transaction made, and that this would be ‘very much based on a use-it-or-lose-it principle,’ he said.
Speaking to The Southern Star about the exit offer – which is valid until July and calls for the post office to be closed by October – Bridie said: ‘I want to stay, but I need the public’s help.
‘People will need to actively help by collecting their social welfare payments, such as pensions and child benefits, at the post office, rather than have them paid into their bank accounts.’
Bridie said people may not be aware that customers can also do their AIB banking, get their phone credit, use An Post Bill Pay, and even buy their dog licence at their local post office.
Bridie also voiced her concern that the building of a new postal sorting office at Market Street in Skibbereen would see mail delivered directly from Skibbereen – a situation that she said would mean ‘a further financial loss’.
Tom Newman, postmaster in nearby Schull, confirmed that An Post has offered to renew his contract for a further three years, but he said he, too, will need support to remain viable.
Drinagh postmaster, JC Daly, said: ‘All small post offices are struggling and will continue to struggle unless people transfer their payments to the post office, because that is their main income.’
People have already been coming out in support of their local post offices. Barbara O’Connell of Schull Books said her mail order business has been dependent on the excellent service provided by Bridie, and that she would be lending her support to the ‘save the post office’ campaign.
Former FG TD Noel Harrington is the postmaster in Castletownbere. He said: ‘People have the ability to change this by transferring their social protection payments. And that could make the difference between retaining or losing the local postal service.’