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Tom O’Callaghan, Chairperson of the Independent Postmasters’ Group, addressed members of Clare County Council at their November meeting.

Councillors urge government to act on future of post offices

Fiona McGarry and Dan Danaher

A ROUND of applause was given by members of Clare County Council, at their November meeting, to a leading advocate for the protection of the rural post office network.

A total of ten councillors had signed up to two motions call for the enactment of a Dáil motion passed in 2016, calling for the establishment of a post office banking service to help secure the future of rural offices.

Tom O’Callaghan, Chairperson of the Independent Postmasters’ Group, a proponent of the motions was in attendance at last Monday’s meeting and, after an appeal from councillors PJ Kelly and Gabriel Keating, was allowed to address the gathering.

In a letter circulated to local councillors, Tom O’Callaghan outlined the financial gravity 31 Clare Post Offices find themselves in and warned that revisions to incomes would shortly make them unviable.

“I spent the first ten years of my career working in the postal service,” Councillor Keating told the meeting. “Tom O’Callaghan has great ideas on the future of the service, but he needs our support. Once, the post office was a hub and in West Clare alone, we have lost seven of them. We had a huge campaign to keep both Lissycasey and Cree and we faced an enormous challenges. Mr O’Callaghan has travelled a long way to be here and it would not be an easy thing to come back here next month.”

While it had been anticipated that Mr O’Callaghan’s address might happen online, at a future date, a show of hands, taken by Mayor of Clare Councillor Mary Howard, indicated that councillors were in favour of hearing from the independent postmaster’s representative.

Mr O’Callaghan thanked the Mayor and councillors for the opportunity to speak in person to council members.

“My motivation for striving to support the service is that there was a tragedy in my family and the community kept us going,” he said. “I am always trying to think of ways to make the community stronger and better and have been 22 years in the postal service.”

The Limerick post office proprietor outlined that by July 31 of next year 20 more post offices, out of the 31 in Clare, could face closure. “We have to look at what we can do to stop this,” the Kildysart native said.

“There is a motion, already adopted after being moved by the rural Independents in 2016, which will create a bank similar to those working so well in post offices in New Zealand and Germany,” he explained. “New Zealand had very similar challenges to us and created a bank that generated €7m in three years and €100m last year and the profits go back to the community and not to shareholders. We must ask the ministers for finance, public expenditure and communications to enact that motion. It is already agreed. We need to take a stand, otherwise we will see the closure of 600 urban and rural post offices nationwide.”

Councillors responded to Mr O’Callaghan’s words with a round of applause and unanimously agreed the two motions calling for the 2016 Dáil motion to be enacted promptly.

Mr O’Callaghan confirmed on Wednesday he has written to more than 900 councillors in Ireland asking them to support  the motion passed by Clare County Council at their respective local authority meetings next month.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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