A WEST of Ireland MEP told a protest rally in Castlebar today that she is 'sick to the death' of the consistent closure of services in rural Ireland.
The event, organised by the Save of Our Services campaign, headed by Bofeenaun man Gerry Loftus, after a week that it was announced that 159 post offices are shutting down in rural communities, heard Marian Harkin call on the public to become more actively involved in fighting the closures.
“If we allow them to close our post offices, then it is our fault,” she stated.
Ms. Harkin said she was 'very disappointed' by the small attendance at the rally, adding it is time for more people to start standing up for themselves.
“This place (the Mall) should be full of people protesting over what is happening our country. We all have to start up and tell the government to stop treating rural people like second class citizens in their own country. We have to shout stop much louder.
“I am sick of being caught on the backfoot by one closure after another, be it schools, garda stations, post offices and other community services.
"We are being mocked by those making the decisions. They keep telling us to look at the bigger picture. What kind of picture is it if 150 post offices close down on top of all the other loss of services.
“The picture I see is one of decline after more decline.”
Ms. Harkin said the people of Mayo should not forget that as well as the loss of rural services, Leader funding to the county had been cut by up to 50% in recent years.
Her European Parliament colleague, Matt Carty, said TDs in rural constituencies must be put under pressure to oppose the forthcoming budget in order to save post offices.
“The October budget provides a golden opportunity for people. It is up to them to impose pressure on their TDs. It has to be done."
MEP Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, said he wants to continue to live in rural Ireland because it is the best place in the world to bring up a young family.
“There will be nothing left in the future unless the current policy of closures stop. I agree that people should be insisting that their elected Dáil representatives come out fighting on their behalf ahead of the Budget.
“However, the fact that not one of the four Mayo TDs attended this rally is a bad start.”
Other speakers included Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice, Councillor Blackie Gavin, cathaoirleach, Mayo County Council, Senator Rose Conway-Walsh, Senator Michelle Mulherin, Seamus Maye, co-chairman, Public Banking Forum of Ireland, Tom O'Callaghan, chairman of the Independent Postmasters Group, Gerry Loftus, founder, Save Our Services, and Councillor Michael Kilcoyne, cathaoirleach, Castlebar Municipal District.
Other elected representatives in attendance included county councillors Al McDonnell, Tom Connolly, Richard Finn, Martin McLoughlin and Joe McHale.
* See our Facebook page for video coverage from the rally.