Expansion of post office services can deliver rural lifeline

BY FRANCIS FARRAGHER

THE rural post office network should be used to provide a wide range of services such as banking, car tax and bill paying, according to a prominent Connacht farm leader.

Padraic Divilly, Connacht IFA Vice-President, told the Farming Tribune, the post office network provided a key service in Irish rural life, that instead of being scaled down needed to be upgraded and modernised.

“With the technology that we have available, there should be no problem in making the post offices something of a one-stop shop in rural villages across Ireland, where customers can conduct a wide range of services.

“With the banks pulling out of rural Ireland, there has to be scope for the post offices to fill the gap and help to provide a range of services such as car tax and paying bills,” said Mr. Divilly. He said that it would be a ‘win win’ situation for everyone concerned and he called on An Post to take a serious look at expanding their services in rural Ireland.

“I would also people to support their local Credit Unions. Through thick and thin the credit unions have been there to support people and to talk to them on a one to one basis.

“Banks are closing all over the place and even where they are still surviving, they are clearly trying to deliver the message that they want business to be conducted through machines rather than in person,” said Padraic Divilly.

Last week, IFA Deputy President and Countryside spokesman, Eddie Downey, also called on An Post to develop a wider range of services and products to better meet customer requirements.

“Rural Ireland currently faces enormous challenges, with poor access to services including banking and internet. The decision by banks such as AIB, National Irish Bank and Permanent TSB to close almost 100 branches between them has had a profound impact on the availability of banking services in Ireland.

“However, this also presents an opportunity for the network of 1,147 Post Offices to secure their long-term future by improving the product offering to include a wider range of foreign currencies, foreign exchange, debit cards and additional deposit and other saving offerings,” said Mr. Downey.

IFA has also expressed concern at the proposals by the Department of Communications to review the services provided by the post office network on behalf of the Department of Social Protection.

“Over one million customers use the post office network to get their pensions, child benefit and other payments each week. It would be a disastrous move for the long-term survival of many post offices if the government decides to remove this service from An Post as part of the current review,” said Eddie Downey..

He also criticised the way in which some