Sinn Féin’s Chris MacManus critical of government post office cutbacks and closures
Midlands Northwest MEP said the government lacked progressive thinking on future of post offices
Sinn Fein MEP Chris MacManus has expressed concern for the future of the postal network following the Government’s rejection of a Sinn Fein amendment calling for the introduction of a public service obligation (PSO) for post offices. The Midlands Northwest representative argues that the current €8.5 million pandemic fund is not enough given the significant reduction in payment rates for postmasters which came into effect this month.
“The postal service has been crippled by closures and cutbacks. Since 2018 more than 200 Post Offices have closed nationwide, the vast majority in rural parts of the country. Post offices are a vital part of social and economic life in local communities and these closures have had a devastating impact. The post offices that remain face uncertain futures following the significant reduction in payment rates for postmasters which has come into effect from this month.”
“This problem was highlighted in the 2020 Grant Thornton Report on the future of Post Offices which warned that the State faces significant levels of unrestrained closures of post offices by the end of 2021 unless the necessary supports are put in place.”
“That report recommended a yearly PSO worth €17 million. Instead post offices have only received €8.5 million spread out over 18 months through the pandemic fund. This is not good enough and does not provide certainty to post offices due to the temporary nature of the fund.”
The Midlands Northwest MEP criticised the government’s role in the postal network cutbacks. “Sinn Féin fully supports the introduction of a PSO to save the network, and put forward an amendment to the Post Office Network motion before the Dáil last week calling for the introduction of a PSO, which was rejected by the Government parties. Notably, Fianna Fáil also supported a PSO when in opposition but have abandoned this commitment since entering Government. A PSO would provide certainty to postmasters across the country and protect the future of the network.”
MacManus highlighted progressive solutions to secure the future of the Irish postal network. “In addition to a PSO, it’s also time to consider expanding the range of services post offices provide, such as motor tax and driving licence renewals. In particular we should look at expanding the financial services offered by Post Offices as the failure to do so has minimized their growth and profits. This is especially important as we now have a virtual duopoly in the banking market following the exit of Ulster Bank from the market. The Government should engage with Post Offices, Credit Unions and other stakeholders to explore the potential of a new pillar in the Irish banking market.” ENDS