The motion was debated in the Dáil on the evening of Tuesday, September 18th. The motion coincided with a protest which was being held outside Leinster House to highlight the issue of rural post office closures. Deputy Murphy and a number of his party colleagues attended the protest.
Last week Michael Martin told Shannonside FM that post office closures would not be put forward as a “redline issue” during budget negotiations. We contacted Deputy Murphy on Monday the 17th of September, asking him if post office closures were a redline issue for him but he refused to answer stating “I will not be making a comment to your publication at this stage”. However, following the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party meeting that evening, Deputy Murphy went on Shannonside FM to say “I think it is a very important issue for rural Ireland... we have seen it right around us in the counties in the Shannonside region...
people are concerned…
my argument all along has been about vulnerable people, older people, people with disabilities, who just may not be able to get any further than a local post office, that is of major concern to me and to the members of the party, so we thought it was only right that we would support this motion, and we will have a motion of our own coming up in the coming weeks as well.”
Deputy Murphy’s party colleague, Robert Troy TD, told The Strokestown Democrat that he will not be making a red line issue of post office closures, despite being a postmaster in his native Westmeath. Troy explained that some communities had not supported their local post office, saying “Many people have opted to have welfare payments processed by EFT as opposed to collecting them in the post office.” However, Deputy Troy did explain that he felt where an operator was willing to take on a post office service in an area when one was due to close, that they should be facilitated by government. When asked would he take down the government if this was not the case he said “Would I pull down the government on a single issue? No, that is no way to govern.” This publication finds it curious that an opposition TD actually considers his decisions to equate to governance?
Sligo-Leitrim TD, Mark McSharry failed to acknowledge our request for comment but is on the record in August as having said "The Government are expecting Fianna Fail to facilitate the passage of a budget in October. If this is to happen we need to see a full reversal of Fine Gael's latest plan to shut down rural Ireland.” The comments were made during the fall out from the announcement of post office closures. The Fianna Fail TD has stated that the re-opening of post offices should be a condition of his party supporting October's budget.
Following his Shannonside FM announcement and with the balance of power on a knife edge, Deputy Murphy now finds himself in a strong position. This could well be the Deputy’s defining moment. Deputy Murphy has now taken the lead on this issue within Fianna Fáil and the fate of rural post offices rests in his hands. While Deputy Murphy is not alone on this issue, he will require real resolve and conviction to follow through with his commitments to the people of rural Ireland.
All it would take to force the hand of government on a matter of this nature would be for two Fianna Fail TD’s to threaten to vote against the upcoming budget and mean it. Undoubtedly, the government cannot afford to lose the support of any Fianna Fail TD’s, as it only holds its majority voting position if all Fianna Fail TD’s abstain. It would appear that despite Michael Martin’s stated position, that Deputy Murphy is preparing to finally put it up to the hierarchy within Fianna Fail, to ensure that the post office issue is placed firmly on the agenda during the budget negotiations, but we must wait and see. The time for sabre rattling and empty gestures has long since passed and Deputy Murphy may single handedly be able to steer Fianna Fáil in a direction which may prevent it becoming completely irrelevant in the Irish body politic.
By taking a strong position now, Eugene Murphy would fast become a household name in rural Ireland, and the prospect of a run for the European elections, in June 2019, may well be on the cards.
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