The west of the country looks set to lose dozens of post offices after it was confirmed 161 postmasters have been granted voluntary redundancy.
An Post said the 161 postmasters’ offices, from among a network of 1,111, were now “likely” to close.
It comes after a leaked document containing a portion of those taking the redundancy showed how rural areas in the west are particularly exposed in comparison to eastern areas.
Of the 110 towns on the document obtained by the Irish Independent, 13 are in Donegal, 12 in Mayo, 10 in both Cork and Galway, and four in Kerry.
This compared to just two areas in the capital, two in Kildare and one in Wicklow. The only county not to have a post office appear on the list was also in the east – Louth.
An Post did not comment on the veracity of the document but said a list would be issued at the end of August once the details had been confirmed with each postmaster.
“Some closures were inevitable in a network that has been largely unchanged for many years,” said Debbie Byrne (inset), head of An Post retail. “We appreciate that these decisions have not been easy for the individual postmasters and we are grateful for their dedication over many years of service in their communities.”
An Post said communities of more than 500 people would have a post office and that 95pc of the population would be within 15km of at least one post office. All island post offices are being retained.
The move has sparked concern among rural representatives about the impact closures will have, especially in isolated areas.
Labour’s Martin Farren, mayor of the Inishowen municipal district in Donegal, said the area had already suffered from the closure of banks.
“It’s going to make an impact on rural Ireland. It’s very worrying,” he said.
Mr Farren pointed out that if all post offices on the peninsula listed in the document closed, it would be an hour round trip for some people to go to a post office. “It would especially affect the older people who go and collect their pensions on a Friday,” he said.
Fianna Fáil communications spokesperson Timmy Dooley said the Government should not be allowing so many post offices in rural Ireland to close.
“An Post and the Government cannot be allowed to use these redundancies as a smokescreen to close the post offices,” he said.
“This would constitute a direct attack on these communities and on rural Ireland.”
He added: “There is a domino effect when it comes to the removal of State services from villages and rural towns.
“Postmasters and mistresses who opt to take the redundancy package are absolutely entitled to do so. They have given years of fantastic service to their local communities,” he said.
A Government senator has also called on Communications Minister Denis Naughton to intervene. Senator Michelle Mulherin raised the issue of the village of Ballindine, in Co Mayo, where the postmistress is retiring.
“I am concerned that the people of Ballindine are being unfairly treated by An Post in its decision to close the post office effective from August 10,” she said.
She said An Post had not given local people an opportunity to come up with alternatives.
“I do not believe this is the way for An Post to do its business.”
In April, An Post announced plans to modernise the post office network following a breakthrough deal with postmasters.