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Post Office—Postal Facilities In Mayo—Observations Question

Volume 218: debated on Friday 24 April 1874

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, in rising to call the attention of the Postmaster General to the fact that out of twenty-five Money Order Offices in Mayo, fifteen only are supplied with telegraphic communication; that the barony of Erris, with a population of about 18,000, is without a Postal Telegraph Station; and to ask if he purposes extending wires to any of the Money Order. Offices in Mayo at present unconnected with the Postal Telegraph Department; and, if he intends establishing a Money Order Office at Ballycroy, in the county of Mayo, said, as a proof of the inconvenience caused by the existing state of circumstances, that there were places in Mayo where a Post Office Order could not be obtained or cashed without travelling a distance of 21 miles. He wished merely to call the noble Lord's attention to the matter in the hope that he would correct it. All he asked was that the people of Mayo, and particularly the people of the localities alluded to, should get the same advantages and privileges as were accorded to the people of Great Britain.

said, that there was no occasion for the hon. Gentleman to apologize for bringing the subject forward, for he quite agreed that it was a fit matter to bring before the House. With respect to the question, he was only able to say generally that telegraphic communication in Ireland was, as a rule, rather ahead than behind telegraphic communication in Great Britain. With respect to the telegraphic communication of Mayo, it was almost exactly the same as in Great Britain; but respecting the particular barony of Erris, in the whole of that barony there was no Post Office having telegraphic communication attached to it; and he was afraid the reason was the very obvious one, that in the whole of the barony there was not a single town or village which had 1,000 inhabitants. It was true that Belmullet was a seaport town, which was 40 miles from any telegraphic station; but if the wires were taken there, it was doubtful whether the business would produce any adequate return. As to Ballycroy, an application had been already made to establish a Money Order Office in that town, and was now under the consideration of the Post Office in Dublin, and he hoped ere long to receive information upon the subject.

said, that the usual answer to inquiries of this kind was, that the district in question was as well off as other parts of the Kingdom; but he submitted that was not a fair mode of dealing with the subject. The sparseness of population was not necessarily a sufficient answer respecting public accommodation, of which the Government had a monopoly, and the postal communications of Mayo were disgraceful to a civilized country. The wants of particular districts ought to be taken into account as well as population; but to set up some pedantic rule that there should be so many Post Offices to so many thousand inhabitants, was extremely unfair to thinly inhabited places, and was to conduct the Post Office services in a narrow spirit quite opposed to the national wishes. There were some parts of Mayo, within a short distance of the county of Galway, in which answers to letters could not be obtained in less than four days. Indeed, it was easier to write to Paris than to write from Mayo to the county of Galway. The Post Office was a monopoly of the most serious kind, and the only ground upon which it could be defended was that it did its work reasonably well for the country, so that none of the subjects of Her Majesty could fairly complain; but that was not the case in Mayo, or in other parts of Ireland. He had repeatedly brought this subject under the attention of the noble Lord who was at the head of the Post Office in the late Administration; but although he always met with that courtesy and sympathy for which Lord Emly was proverbial, he had never succeeded in overcoming the inertia and routine of the Government officials. They seemed to look upon the Post Office altogether as a Revenue Department, which it never was, and which he believed the country would never permit it to be. The first consideration was efficiency, and if after that there was a surplus, well and good; and he was quite sure, that even if only a small part of the subsidies bestowed, perhaps wisely, on promoting postal communication with foreign countries, but now in a great measure withdrawn, were devoted to postal purposes in this country it would afford great satisfaction. Nothing tended more to the civilization of remote districts than facilities of postal communications; but if this was looked at as merely a question of £ s. d., and if every Post Office was to be expected to pay its expenses in the first year of its establishment, we should never have anything like a proper system of postal management. He made these observations in the earnest hope that the present Postmaster General would form his own opinion upon these matters; for in cases within his own knowledge, Post Offices which somebody had guaranteed in the first instance, because the Post Office would not establish them without being secured against immediate loss—which he thought a narrow and objectionable view of a public duty—had in the course of a very short time so increased correspondence as to pay very well. He repeated that the Post Office monopoly could not be justified, unless it was thoroughly efficient, liberal, and satisfactory in all its dealings with the public.

contended that it was the duty of the Government to pro- vide postal communication for the people, and as a proof would instance the case of the Islands of Arran, where, through the influence of the late Marquess of Clanricarde, it was established several years ago.

Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.