Interim arrangement put in place for social welfare services in Castlepollard

The dole office in Castlepollard will operate out of the Westmeath County Council Building two days per week in what has been described as an “interim arrangement” following the closure of the branch office in the town on Friday last.

In a statement issued to the Westmeath Examiner last Friday, the department said that the Castlepollard office was run by a branch manager who for extenuating circumstances is no longer able to continue and that “the continued provision of Social Welfare services to Castlepollard customers is a high priority”.

On Friday evening, Minister of State Damian English posted on social media that the department has “moved swiftly to put in place interim arrangements for Castlepollard” and that staff will be based in the council building two days a week.

The news that an interim arrangement has been put in place has been welcomed by Cllr Paddy Hill, who also paid tribute to the former manager of the branch office, Jimmy Halligan, and his family for the service they have given the people of the Castlepollard area over the best part of 20 years.

Cllr Hill added that he had been informed that the position of branch manager would be advertised in the coming weeks.

“It’s news to be welcomed. I’d like to acknowledge the work done by local ministers Robert Troy, Damian English and Peter Burke and Senator Shane Cassells as well,” Cllr Hill said.

Deputy Johnny Guirke of Sinn Féin says that it is vital for Castlepollard and the surrounding area that the full suite of services be re-established as soon as possible.

“For the last four weeks there have been rumours circulating that this DEASP office in Castlepollard would close. I sent a letter to Minister Humphreys asking that she make a commitment to keep this vital service in the local community open, she hasn’t responded to my letter, that was three weeks ago. We need to see a branch manager hired for Castlepollard.

“The staff at the DEASP office have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, making sure that the local people were helped in times of stress.

“The minister must understand that this closure doesn’t just affect Castlepollard, it hits surrounding areas of Oldcastle, Ballinacree, Clonkeefy, Mount Nugent, Fore, Moylagh, Delvin, Collinstown, Coole, Castletown, Finea, Lismacaffrey and Streete.

“I don’t accept this big push for online services in rural Ireland, as I know many people don’t have a good internet where they live.

“This government needs to come out to the people of Castlepollard and explain to them why they keep cutting services in their town and not just at election time,” Deputy Guirke said.