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Government failure threatens post office network

3 June, 2004

Sinn Fein North West EU candidate Pearse Doherty has said that the continuing failure of the government to meet its social obligations to support An Post threatens hundreds of Posts Offices and the rural post office network in particular.

Mr Doherty said:

"The failure of the government to recognise and meet its social obligations to financially support An Post threatens the future of the Post Office Network and rural post offices in particular. An Post cannot sustain losses, that since 2001 amount to some 67 million Euro, without there being a long term threat to postal and post office services.

"The loss of large parts of the rural post office network throughout rural the North West will have a devastating impact on rural communities.

"The long-term objective of the government, particularly the right wing agenda of the PDs, is to see the privatisation of An Post. This would signal the end of our postal services as a social service. Privateers would cherry pick the profitable bits of An Post while the rest of the services would whither and die. This would be the death knell for many rural postal and post office services.

"The Flynn report (2000) made it clear that the financial subsidy required to maintain the Post Office Network was significant. Taking into account the fact the 200 post offices are now run on an agency basis, the subsidy required to maintain the remaining post offices is some 24 million Euro.

"The government, despite a clearly stated rural policy, in failing to support the post office network is not living up to its obligations to rural Ireland.

"Following the Flynn report we have not seen the level of financial support it recommended. There has been only a single one-off payment of 12 million Euro to finance the conversion of Post Offices with a full range of services to agency basis with very limited services. 274 Sub Post Offices have been closed or 'converted' and there is a target to increase this to 440 by the end of 2005.

"Unless there is long-term investment, major new business and the development of existing services the future for the post office network is bleak. In many cases the current state of post offices actually inhibits the creation of new business or the expansion of existing services.

"The government needs to make a very clear commitment to both the Postal and Post Office Network. There is social obligation on the government to cost the implications of these commitments and meet them financially. Under EU legislation government subsidy for the protection of its social obligations is allowed and we already see them operating in terms of CIE, RTE, ESB and the regional airports. We need to see the government exercise its ability to meet these social obligations in repost of An Post." ENDS

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