With the threat from the Irish Postmasters Union that the Post Office Network is facing imminent collapse from July 1st if they do not receive support from Government, Deputy Michael Lowry raised the looming crisis with An Tanaiste, Leo Varadkar, on Thursday.
Deputy Lowry said that ‘Due to the failure of swift and urgently required action at Government level we learned on Tuesday that the Post Office Network is on the verge of collapse as their appeal for help has gone unheard’
‘Tanaiste, this is not a new story. This has been roaring down the tracks at us for many months. Postmasters have been warning of looming closures for a very long time. They have repeatedly cited July 1st as the date by which Government assistance could save them. They have constantly questioned when the additional range of Government services promised to them in 2018 would come on stream. The fact that the provision of offline Government Services is still being considered three years later has done nothing to help Post Offices as they stumble towards disaster. Now, with less than a month remaining, the writing is on the wall and a crisis is looming’ stated Deputy Lowry.
‘Of the 920 Post Offices across the country, 875 of them are operated by independent Postmasters. From July 1st they are facing a reduction of an average of 20% in payment rates. This will render their businesses unsustainable. This will, in their own words, result in ‘unrestrained closures’ of Post Offices. It has now become a battle against the clock for survival. An emergency meeting of Postmasters is likely to sanction work stoppages’ he said.
An Tanaiste acknowledged that the implementation of the 2018 plan, which focused on creating new business lines including financial and new Government Services along with Capital Investment for renewed and existing Post Offices had not happened. ‘The implementation of the Plan has been delayed by Covid-19’ he said.
‘The Department of the Environment, Communications and Climate, in consultation with ‘New Era’, is now reviewing the proposal for An Post to support the Post Office Network in line with their plan and we expect this process to conclude shortly.
‘In addition, in March, the Government established the Offline Services Group, to explore the potential of a ‘One Stop Shop’ approach to the delivery of Government services and to examine the feasibility of directing more business to the Post Office Network. A report on that is expected in July’ concluded An Tanaiste.