There was a bit of commotion in the post office down the road on 20 January, said Aidan Brown on Thursday, from behind the bar in Peadar Brown’s pub.
The post office, which was based out of the Spar on New Street South, closed for good that day.
He had popped in that day and saw three or four people at the post office window looking to withdraw money. Maybe pensions, social protection or disability allowances, he says. “They were just confused.”
Spar staff were telling them to go to the post office on St Andrew’s Street. But they weren’t sure where that was, or how to get there, he says.
Angus Laverty, spokesperson for An Post, said that the postmaster of the branch had told them late last year that they intended to quit the post office business.
An Post has been looking since then for someone else to contract to run the post office, said Laverty. “We had advertised the vacancy on three occasions to no avail.”
They canvassed the area to try to find a suitable applicant too, he said. “But again without success.”
An Post regrets the closure and apologises to customers for any inconvenience caused, he said.
He didn’t immediately have figures on how many post offices had closed in the last five years in the city.
On Thursday, Lisa Clousier held a brown paper envelope as she hurried out of the Spar, and turned south, down towards the post office on Leonard’s Corner on Clanbrassil Street.
She had thought this one was open, she says. (That day, Google Maps listed it as being open, although it now lists it as “permanently closed”.)
It was such a busy post office, she says. “There were big long queues, I mean it was a huge service for everybody,” she says. “It was very convenient for a lot of people living up here.”
Outside the Spar, Keane Murray says he used this post office to send out products to customers for his small wax-melts business. “This is kind of a bit of a blow.”
The parking bays were convenient for unloading packages, he says, while Leonard’s Corner doesn’t have parking right outside. “I don’t know what I’m gonna do now.”
Some older people in the community, he has heard, are planning to move to getting their services online, says Murray. “It’s the only option. They said they’d rather do that then walk down to Andrew’s Street.”
Murray says he’s not sure why people were being sent to St Andrew’s Street, a 15-minute walk away, over by the Molly Malone statue, and not the post office on Leonards’ Corner on Clanbrassil Street, a 10-minute walk away.
“There’s no, even, public transport route to Andrew’s Street from here,” he says.
Murray says there are older people who would collect money from the post office, living across the street from it. “They’re on walking sticks. So how are they meant to get up to Leonard’s Corner, let alone down to St Andrew’s Street?”
Laverty, of An Post, says those who had collected money from the Department of Social Protection from the New Street South post office would instead collect it from St Andrew’s street post office.
They could use a different post office, if they like, he says, by making an application to the Department of Social Protection.
A New One?
There’s definitely demand in the area for a post office, says Brown, at the nearby pub.
“We need post offices. A lot of people use it for their bank and savings. It’s a local post office, it’s supposed to be convenient for people. Nobody wants to go to a bank now.”
Paula Shiels, sitting at a table in Kavanagh’s Pub on New Street South, says she heard of someone saying they would have to help an elderly relative help get to St Andrew’s Street post office.
“People in general are giving out, ‘How is my granny going to do this?’” she says. “It’s not fair on the elderly, without a doubt.”
“It’s a good trek to Andrew’s Street,” says Bernie Donnelly next to her. “It’s going to wear them out. They’re going to be exhausted.”
Laverty, the An Post spokesperson, says An Post is still looking for a new contractor for the area. “We are still happy to engage with any interested party who might have a suitable location in mind.”
In response to a query asking what reason the postmaster gave for closing the New Street South post office, Laverty said no reasons were given other than wanting to give up the contract.
Tony Howard, the general secretary of Irish Postmasters’ Union, which represents those contracted to run post offices, says he doesn’t know why the New Street South post office had to close. The postmaster there was not a member of their union, he says.
An Post doesn’t have a policy to close post offices, says Howard. “There is intent to actually fill any vacancies that come up.”
Postmasters often do their job for decades, he says. “A number of postmasters, for whatever reason, decide that they want to leave, retire or resign.”
Income to post offices has fallen over recent years, because people have been switching to online to send their post, he says, while some costs of running the post office, such as rent and electricity, have increased.
“At some stage, postmasters will decide they are at the threshold that it’s no longer viable for them to stay.”
In June, the government announced it would inject €30 million into An Post over three years to sustain the post office network. There are 920 post offices in Ireland, said Laverty.
“The Government recognises the importance of a high-value and high-quality Post Office network to citizens throughout Ireland, as well as the central and trusted role of postmasters in our communities,” said the press release.
Once the legislation for this has been passed at the Oireachtas, it will hopefully sustain post offices a bit longer, says Howard.
But more people need to use post offices more often, if they want them to stay open, he says.
He says people could look at what services they have, like managing their money, for example, and use the post office for that instead.
Often, post offices are more than just a place to bring parcels, says Howard, like pointing people towards other services, or helping them with transactions.
“Post offices rely on the business that the community gives them,” he says “By supporting their post offices, they are making those post offices viable.”
Shiels says it feels like some face-to-face services have been moving online, and she hopes there isn’t a plan to get rid of post offices.
She lists other post offices in the area that have closed in recent memory: one on Montague Street in March 2017, and another on Kevin’s Street which was also located within a shop opposite the Garda station.
Elsewhere in the city, the Parkgate Street Post Office also closed for good in August 2022.
Says Shiels: “Like obviously you hear a lot of the country post offices closing, and then it seems to be happening in the city centre.”