Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly has slammed Fine Gael and Labour for failing to support a motion calling on the Government to produce an action plan to protect the post office network.
The motion was being debated in the Dail on the back of a report by consultants Grant Thornton that stated 557 post offices would close if An Post lost the social welfare contract.
“In refusing to support the motion, Minister Rabbitte said there are no plans to close any further post offices – but neither are there any plans to protect them. The Minister also claimed that people now want to shop in large retail outlets and An Post needs to move with the times,” Donnelly said.
“This is a very dangerous position for a Minister to take and one that is potentially damaging to our towns and communities. Look at Arklow, the main street is suffering and the continued presence of the post office is vital. The over-the-counter service of An Post is also vital in towns where there is no bank. This is the case in Kilcoole.
“Obviously, how we communicate has changed radically. In response, An Post is working on some innovative products. They have an online shopping channel, a mobile phone product, and they’re working on an SME [small and medium-sized enterprise] Digital Trading Platform to meet the needs of Irish SME’s trading online.”
An Post is also developing a new service that will allow customers to shop online, but have their goods delivered to a nearby post office for no extra charge.
“An Post is clearly working to redefine itself in the digital age,” Donnelly said.
“At the same time, the Irish Postmaster’s Union has been warning about the long-term viability of the postal network if it loses income from the Department of Social Protection and the contract from the National Treasury Management Agency. The only stakeholder that isn’t actively working to protect the Irish postal network is the Government.”