Mags Gargan and Greg Daly
Parish priests have warned that reports of the proposed closure of up to 80 post offices in towns and villages across the country will lead to the death of rural Ireland.
“The last person out should switch off the lights,” said Fr Edward Gallagher, Parish Priest in Kilcar, Co. Donegal, who described the closures as “another sign of the death of rural Ireland”.
“Populations are going down. We can see that in our schools and it’s in every rural parish in West Donegal. It is going to come down to reduced services.
“All the young people are emigrating but not to foreign places like Australia, they are emmigrating to Dublin. There will be less facilitates and less people in the west of Ireland,” Fr Gallagher said.
“The Government should make an effort to keep things like post offices and Garda barracks open. If you take away the services then less people are willing to live in the area.”
Fr Stephen Farragher in Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo said the post office along with the church and school “represent the heart of the community – and when you remove one of these you remove the heart”.
There is “a social side to it for people, particularly old age pensioners”, he said, adding that parish pastoral councils “will have to do more and more just so that people don’t feel isolated”.
In Kilmovee, Co. Mayo the local post office closed some years ago but services have been maintained through an ‘agency’ in the parish’s community centre.
Parish Priest Fr Vincent Sherlock said the post office has a “huge emotional, parochial, and community value” and it’s “a huge loss in any community”.
Fr Eamonn Fitzgibbon, the head of pastoral studies at MIC, St Patrick’s College in Thurles said that the post office closures are “a further death knell”.
He said “instead of closing things down in rural Ireland, we have to be innovative and look for new ways to keep them open. We can’t just give up.
“Post offices are part of the social fabric of communities but we have to reimagine communities and reimagine pillars of communities like post offices. Rural Ireland is definitely worth fighting for,” he said.
Fr Fitzgibbon is the organiser of the conference ‘Building Rural Community – Lessons from Sport’ MIC, St Patrick’s College Campus on Wednesday, March 29.