Deputy Michael Lowry and the Regional Group of TDs have again called on Government to intervene and support the Post Office Network before it collapses.
Regional Group Members are awaiting a response from Minister Eamon Ryan on this urgent issue. The Minister had committed to report back to the Dáil within six months of their Private Member’s Motion on the post office network last October. They are calling on the Government to step up to their commitments to deliver new business to prevent the collapse of the post office network.
The Regional Group has continuously pointed out that An Post requires support in the roll out of new services, and the delivery of its strategic plan to ensure its financial viability. In the meantime, An Post needs immediate intervention until a long-term strategy is put in place to ensure its survival.
The Post Office network is about to collapse, and branch closures are inevitable without immediate support from Government. They face a major challenge due to the significant reduction in payment rates amounting to an average fall of approximately 20%. The average losses of €19,181 are forecast per Post Office per annum which will impact all offices small, large, urban, and rural.
More than 500 of An Post’s 939 post offices nationwide are situated in locations without a mainstream Bank presence. An Post is one of the last Government agents existing in our communities and the Government committed to a sustainable nationwide post office network as a key component of the economic and social infrastructure in both rural and urban areas.
Regional Group members state that there must be direct intervention by the Government to develop new State services for the post office network, in line with the previous commitment given to use the network as the offline option for all government services, and to pay a fee of €17 million for this service, as outlined in the Grant Thornton report.
The Regional Group highlight that the strategy adopted by this Government is to allow Post offices to close before intervening and to support only the most viable, thereby ignoring the fact that post offices are a necessity for those living in regional Ireland. There is a socio-economic benefit for our communities that cannot easily be measured. The community benefit of having this service available locally is about much more than the Post Office itself.
Government needs to recognise and connect these factors. The challenges facing village and town economies, and their Post Offices, will need an innovative response from Government. Establishing alternative funding options to maintain a sustainable future for the post office network and for postmasters is now essential to prevent their collapse.