Seanad debates

Monday, 26 April 2021

10:30 am

Photo of Tim LombardTim Lombard (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank Senator Conway for sharing time with me. The Minister of State is more than welcome to the House. I acknowledge her presence. Her portfolio is a very important one in terms of how we can address this issue. I acknowledge the motion put down by Senator Dooley. It is very important and well timed.

The post office network provides social welfare payment services to roughly 1.3 million people, which is equivalent to an average of more than €4.6 billion a year going into the economy. It is a very significant driver in local communities and local economies. However, there has been a major change and Covid has proven that. How we do our business has changed dramatically. The online effect has been huge. The demographic now using online is not just a younger one; it is everyone really. That is how society has changed. How An Post management and the network deal with that will be a major issue.

The next few months are critical for the An Post network. The major changes in society as regards the English, or UK, model saw the post office network there move into convenience stores and lose the ethos of a post office. That is something of which I am very fearful. I came across a scenario in Goleen in west Cork in which a convenience store, located right beside a post office, got a letter from An Post offering it the majority of its services. An Post subsequently offered an apology stating it was a mistake. That is what is happening on the ground. We could have our post office network pushed into the local Centra or Spar. That is not what we are looking for.

We are looking for An Post to come up with a real model, a model with a scenario in which the post office network will be a real part of the community and society and will fit into their ethos and economic drivers. That will involve hubs and places like digital hubs. It will rethink how our post office will be in future. Whether An Post management has the imagination to come up with that plan is something we need to start talking about. That is where this debate needs to go. We need a real, post-Covid plan for the An Post network. I have not seen any talk of it so far. We need An Post management to produce that plan so we can push forward and, hopefully, have a profitable and capable post office network.


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