Monday, 26 April 2021
Post Office Network: Motion
I commend my colleague, Senator Dooley, on tabling this very important motion. It is good to debate the future of An Post in the Seanad. An Post is intrinsically linked with practically every family in this country and that special relationship is amplified by the outstanding service of the postwomen and postmen in this country over many decades, particularly, as previous speakers noted, over the 12 months or so of this pandemic. In some cases, the only individual people saw in the course of a day was the postman or postwoman dropping a letter. We should always be very proud of our postal network and the fact that the vast majority of letters posted in this country get delivered the following day. It is exceptionally good when compared with international standards.
The future of the post office has been debated in the Houses of the Oireachtas and within communities or the media in this country for a long time. Many post offices that had been open and served their communities with distinction are no longer open and were probably not viable. My goal today is to secure what remains of post office network, particularly as it is not really realistic to expect that post offices that have been closed will reopen, unfortunately. We can aim to deliver on the remaining post offices being retained. I take this opportunity to welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Hildegarde Naughton. I know she fully understands and is committed to that principle.
The post office service needs two key elements, which are politics and people. It needs politics to deliver. I am not against the idea of a public service obligation payment to An Post so as to retain the network of post offices. There is much untapped potential in that network.A post office, essentially, should be a one-stop shop in which as much government, and other, business as possible can be done. Many forms are now downloaded online but many other things can be provided in post offices. The post office does not have to be a traditional, big building in a town. It can be a building within a supermarket or a shop. In many cases it is and can be in future. Technology is now very small; there is no need for big machines any more.
The post office also needs people to support it. Post offices close because they are not viable as people are not going through their doors and there is no footfall. Unless, as a nation, we support the post office by using it, we will lose it.