Action required to save post offices

Oireachtas members in the Longford/Westmeath constituency have expressed concern over the future of the country’s post office network.

Oireachtas members in the Longford/Westmeath constituency have expressed concern over the future of the country’s post office network.

With uncertainty hanging over the renewal of An Post’s contracts with Social Welfare and the National Treasury Management Agency, the Irish Postmasters’ Union recently commissioned Grant Thornton to deliver a report on the future of the post office network. The report concluded that difficult challenges lie ahead.

“It is clear that the post office network is in decline and many of the services it provides will not be easily replaced,” the report stated.

“It is important that there is an awareness of the cost to communities and to the Government of replacing such a network.

“Any decisions can therefore be made with a full understanding of the potential impact the loss of the post office network would have on the community and any inequalities that this may create.”

Speaking following a Dáil debate on the report, Fianna Fáil TD, Robert Troy said: “If plans by the Department of Social Welfare to phase out the over-the-counter payments of these entitlements proceeds, post offices will lose a vital part of their income.”

Labour’s Willie Penrose shared similar sentiments, adding: “For many local businesses and residents, the closure of a post office could result in significant additional expenses, including time and cost of travelling to a post office located further from them.

“It is important we are actively involved in ensuring post offices continue to play a vital role in our communities.”

Local Fine Gael TD, James Bannon offered a more upbeat assesment, remarking that the network is a massive resource which has not yet been fully exploited.

“We must not forget that the post office network offers the largest retail network in the country with 1,100 branches nationwide,” he said.

In a separate report published in March, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications recommended transferring responsibility for additional services to post offices, including motor tax and hospital charge payments.