Michael McHugh, PA
Postmasters warned that the Government needs to act quickly and decisively to keep post offices open or put access to local banking at risk.
The Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) general secretary, Ned O’Hara said a Government financial intervention must be in place by June.
Mr O’Hara said Covid-19 has made the viability of the hundreds of post offices even more challenging.
He said: “The question is, who will provide financial services to communities, such as those where Bank of Ireland branches are to close, if post offices do not get government support in time?”
He warned of a significant reduction in postmasters’ payments rate, to take effect from July 1.
“The challenge faced is related to the delay in providing new government services which have been promised since 2018, but are only now being seriously examined.”
Minister of State for Postal Services, Hildegarde Naughton, last week promised to establish a new Inter-Departmental Group to examine directing more government business to the post office network and to report back at the end of July.
Mr O’Hara added: “This is too late. There is a cliff face in front of the post office network that is coming this July.
“Decisions need to have been made and actions taken before then.
“While the IPU welcomes additional banking services which post offices will provide, such as following the Bank of Ireland branch closures announcement, this can only happen if there is a network there to provide it.”
The IPU has been invited to attend the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications Networks on Tuesday.
Mr O’Hara said: “The IPU will recommend that an annual government retainer payment be put in place from this summer with a commitment among all parties (the Government, An Post and postmasters) to expand the range of services provided as much as possible and urgently.
“In 2018 a national plan for the post office network was launched giving a commitment to services within 3km in urban areas and 15km or community of 500 people in all rural areas.
“To deliver on this policy, an underpinning government retainer is needed.”