Contribution to the Private Members Motion on Post Offices

February 26th, 2014 - Pat Breen

Deputy Pat Breen: I welcome the opportunity to speak. I was very pleased to hear the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, confirm last night that the Government has no programme in place to close our post offices. Indeed the Government is ensuring that the post office network is positioned to maintain its vital economic and social importance to our local communities. I welcome the many post office workers who have come to Dublin this evening, including many who have travelled long distances from my constituency in Clare.
We will not make the same mistakes of the previous Government, which failed to address the real economic challenges facing our post offices. It was a bit hypocritical of my constituency colleague, Deputy Dooley, to say he was shocked at the Government’s lack of support for post offices given that his party in government sat idly by, as other speakers have said, and allowed 197 post offices to close between 2006 and 2010.
Two thirds of our post offices are in small towns and villages. The post office network is the link that binds our communities together - often the only point of contact for people who live in isolation. That is why I campaigned vigorously in the past for post offices to be retained in Corofin and Broadford in County Clare when their futures were threatened. That is why I want the maximum number of post offices maintained in local communities in County Clare.
Given the fast-changing retail and technological age in which we live where consumers, especially younger consumers, are no longer reliant on the post office but on the iPhone which is the main means for doing business, An Post needs to reshape its network to meet the new IT challenges. Having invested in computerisation, post offices are now equipped to become the front-office provider of government and I welcome the Minister’s announcement of this initiative last night.
The introduction of standard banking accounts, which should be done as quickly as possible, will put the A Post on an equal footing with the banks. Instead of people having to deal with banks where they have to contend with reduced banking hours, longer queues and less personal contact, they could transact their business in the local post office in a far friendlier environment. A wider range of services should be available in post offices, as other speakers have said, building on the success of the passport express service. Instead of promoting online payments, Government policy should focus on encouraging greater utilisation of the post office network, particularly for paying the local property tax, motor tax, court fines etc.
The post office workers can rest assured of my support.