Monday, 26 April 2021
Post Office Network: Motion
I welcome the Minister of State to the House and thank her for taking the motion, which I formally second. I thank my colleague, Senator Dooley, for raising this issue today. I remember, when I was a small boy growing up in north Donegal on the Fanad Peninsula, there were nine post offices in an area roughly the size of the part of Dublin that is within the M50. We are now down to one. As has been outlined by the previous speaker, generally what we are dealing with is how activity is not what it used to be.The measly pay that postmasters get per transaction is not viable. It is not viable as recompense for the service provided to the community by post offices.
As has rightly been said, there has not been enough brain drain or thinking outside the box in the context of post offices. They provide a critical service for the people of this island, in both rural and urban areas.
As Senator Dooley noted, during the first lockdown when people were first grappling with Covid-19, the first people who were asked to step up to the plate were the postal delivery workers across the country. They started to visit the homes of those in rural Ireland who were isolated. Every one of those workers stepped up to the plate and they never looked for overtime or one extra cent in pay. They did it then and they have been doing it ever since. They are providing a massive service to communities across the nation. However, postmen and postwomen have not been given the acknowledgement they deserve for doing that service throughout the past year. They continue to do it week in, week out and do not say a word about it. Collectively, they, and the post office network as a whole, have played a vital role.
When I was a young boy, our postman doubled up as a farmer. He delivered his milk in glass bottles at the same time as he delivered letters. Those days are gone but there are other ways in which post offices can evolve. Those who are running the service at a local level need to be given proper pay per transaction but there is also a need to think outside the box in terms of new and innovative ways to deal with the needs of customers. The delivery of letters is no longer necessarily what is needed. The country is crying out for more financial services. There are opportunities in financial services and banking. There is much more that we could and should explore. I ask the Minister of State, as part of the review, to take up that mantra and to deliver a service for people that goes above and beyond the call of duty. It behoves us to take up the mantra and to deliver for those working for An Post.
Central to this is that An Post maintains its sustainability and viability to the fore, while remembering the important role that it plays not simply as a postal delivery provider, but as a provider of the services outlined by Senator Dooley. An Post fulfils many roles in providing vital supports to communities that allow their continued existence and ensure their connectivity to the rest of the country. It is important to recognise the value of An Post beyond the cash flow of each retail outlet.
An Post has already tackled massive challenges. We must now take the next step to overcome the challenges that currently exist and provide proper solutions. The progress in digital technology has created a vast opportunity for An Post to provide more services and to work alongside people's habits, such as the shift towards online shopping. It is necessary to ensure efficiency and timeliness and credit must go to the staff of An Post who have done so while the service they provide has evolved to meet new needs.
I urge all Members to keep in mind the thousands of people involved in the safe and efficient operation of An Post. Many of them should be considered to be front-line workers, as was outlined. Without the staff of An Post and their efforts, many businesses throughout Ireland would have struggled to operate through the pandemic. We had our difficulties with Brexit. Thankfully, An Post managed to overcome those issues to the best of its ability and provide a very efficient service throughout all of that. I believe in the vision of An Post as outlined by Senator Dooley. It is a provider that is growing and that is resilient. It is always evolving when it comes to technological changes. It has already adapted to those changes and will do so again.