Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has voiced his concerns over the removal of direct references to An Post as the named service provider for social welfare payments proposed in the Social Welfare & Pensions Bill 2014.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“I believe the removal of the references to An Post as the named service provider for social welfare payments could have devastating implications for the survival of local post offices across this state.
“The Department of Social Protection have explained that the deletion was made in order to remove the “privileged” position of An Post in the consideration of service providers in the future.
“However, I believe that An Post should indeed hold a seeded position given the important role that local post offices play in our communities. The post office network is crucially important to the social fabric of communities in rural Ireland. This is also true of many urban neighbourhoods throughout the state.
“The removal of An Post’s status creates the possibility of a multi-national company or bank, with absolutely no connection to our communities, swooping in and acquiring the contract for social welfare payments. This would not be in the best interests of payment recipients or the wider community.
“The Grant Thornton report highlighted how up to 557 out of 1,150 Post Offices could close if the social welfare contract was removed from An Post.
“Local postmasters have struggled to survive in a difficult environment. Instead of creating even further difficulties, this government should be developing a national strategy to protect our post office network and the jobs of the 3,000 people employed by it.
“Sinn Féin will be opposing the sections of the Bill in which the references to An Post as the service provider are being removed and we will be proposing amendments accordingly.”