I stood outside the post office on the Old Square in Roscommon town for a full day once. We were collecting money for the local Lions Club to finance an accommodation project for vulnerable people. It was a seriously busy spot. There were three of us on the job with our plastic buckets that day. My 12-year-old son also helped as we rattled the change around and in the end, we collected the best part of ¤7,000 in the space of just seven hours.

It helped, of course, that it was a Friday – pension day in Ireland. Throughout the morning, the older and wiser souls of the county town and surrounding areas trooped in and out and collected their state welfare contribution – their payback after paying their taxes for more than 50 years.

For the most part, I don’t think there was a soul among them who resented us asking for a donation. They gave us twenties, tens, fivers and every coin they had in their purse and we were delighted to get it.

It will be a different story if we have a collection next year because Roscommon post office won’t be in the same spot. Last month, An Post announced a series of closures of some of their busiest and best-known post offices around the country. Private contractors will be sought to provide an alternative premises for the services of six post offices currently run by the company – Rathmines, Phibsboro, Tallaght, Wexford, Roscommon and Tipperary – a decision which has led to considerable grief and dismay in bustling rural towns.

An Post says it will advertise the contracts shortly and that existing staff in these offices will have first preference in applying for them. David McRedmond’s press statement claims the move is in line with the ongoing transformation of the national network and that these six busy outlets will now join more than 95% of the country’s 900-plus offices run by contractors. Fewer than 40 post offices nationally are now run directly by An Post, or so they say.

The tone of the press statement was very much upbeat without as much as a sniff of regret for closing buildings that have been used for years by thousands of people. “The move represents a significant business opportunity for the newly appointed postmaster,” they boldly predict. “The change in business model of our post offices will not in any way change the range or extent of the services offered by An Post.” So what’s the big deal, you ask.

Akin to madness

Never stand in the way of progress, my mother used to say. But is this really progress? I’m not familiar with the locations of the other five post offices but I can tell you that the closure of the Roscommon town office in its present location strikes me as being akin to madness, and here’s why.

They even found a catchy name for it – (wait for it!) the ‘Putting the Spokes Back in the Wheel’ project focused on enhancing the linkages into Roscommon town centre, including new walking and cycleways

Over the last three years, Roscommon County Council has engaged in one of the most impressive regeneration projects in the country. Using the collateral of a beautiful new assembly area on the Old Square beside the post office, the local authority has succeeded in attracting further funding of ¤9m under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF).

They even found a catchy name for it – (wait for it!) the ‘Putting the Spokes Back in the Wheel’ project focused on enhancing the linkages into Roscommon town centre, including new walking and cycleways.

At the time, I thought it was brilliant ‘joined-up’ thinking by the county council. Putting in a shiny new square is one thing and I genuinely thought that local government backed up by key organs of the State were going to bring fresh life to this place with great new linkages bringing in the crowds for live music facilities and entertainment. I was wrong.

Instead of complementing the regeneration project, An Post has pulled the rug out from under it. They say it is likely that a different location for the post office will be sought by the new postmaster. In lieu of bringing punters into the middle of the Old Square to spend their pension money locally, they may very well be taking them away – and that simply cannot be in keeping with Government policy.

An Post reminds us that as a semi-state company they have an obligation to operate in a commercial manner but the question must remain: “Why change a winning formula unless you have to?”

Number cruncher

Thanks to all the active members of the community voluntary sector who spotted themselves in the caricatures we painted in last week’s column. A new one can now be added to the list. A ‘number cruncher’ called Áine contacted me on X (Twitter) to say she’s been a proud treasurer for over 20 years in her local Tidy Towns committee. “Somebody with a head for figures,” was on the job ad. I’m sure many will know just the character. Follow Ciaran on X Twitter at @ciaranmullooly

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