Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan hopes to take proposals to government “in the near future” to support post offices, a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications has said.
There is “widespread suspicion” around the nature and intention of government proposals to support the post office network, according to independent TD for Laois-Offaly, Deputy Carol Nolan.
The deputy claimed that Minister of State with responsibility for Postal Services, Hildegarde Naughton is “preparing to bring forward a targeted and time-bound proposal in the form of a state subvention of between €10,000 and €12,000 per year as part of a national plan”.
However, these claims were not confirmed by the department. The spokesperson said that “nothing has been ruled in or out in relation to consideration around this, including financial supports”.
For a lot of people, Deputy Nolan said, there is no “sincere effort” by the government to provide permanent guarantees around the future of the post office network. She added:
“We need long-term solutions not political tricks by a government that has already demonstrated a profound disinterest in the future of the post office network.”
Rural post offices, in particular, have been begging the government to ensure that all potential business activities previously identified are implemented, including government services, Deputy Nolan said.
“There is regular, ongoing engagement with An Post in relation to the viability and sustainability of the post office network,” according to the spokesperson.
An Post reached an agreement with the Irish Postmasters Union (IPU) in June 2021 for an €8.5 million fund, which will benefit post offices nationwide over a 18-month period until the end of 2022, the department said.
A major transformation of An Post and the entire network is underway, in line with the company’s estimated €150 million strategic plan, for which the government provided a long-term low-interest loan of €30 million in December 2017.
This was provided to support and protect the renewal of the network and the continued fulfilment of a 5-day-per-week mail delivery service, the department added.
Minister Ryan and Minister of State Naughton consider the work of the Inter-Departmental Group, which, the department confirmed, will submit its report to government in due course.
The group was established to examine the feasibility of additional government services being provided through the network. The department said:
“The government recognises the importance of a high-value and high-quality post office network to our citizens right across the country, as well as the central and trusted role of postmasters in our communities.”
The government is also committed to working with An Post and postmasters to ensure that the network continues to play a strong role in delivering state services, the department spokesperson added.