Proper support system needed for rural post offices – Harkin

Independent TD Marian Harkin has said that a proper support system for rural post offices is needed to ensure they remain viable.

The Sligo-Leitrim deputy said that the current “sticking plaster policy” of keeping the “odd post office open” for a few years with the threat of closure still looming was not working, and would not work in the long term.

Speaking in the Dáil, Harkin said that opportunities for further and enhanced provision of local services must be put in place.

“The recent Grant Thornton report, commissioned by the Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU), had revealed that in 2021 the post office branch system would have a deficit of €17 million in revenue representing a loss of approximately €19,000 per post office per annum,” she said.

Working from home demand

“In view of the current move to working from home and people moving to towns, villages and rural areas across the country, the onus is on the government to ensure the availability of local services and the post office is the ideal venue for this,” Harkin added.

She told the Dáil that she fully supported the IPU’s request that An Post be the sole provider of the bank accounts required to facilitate the Department of Social Protection’s strategy to move to e-payments.

The independent deputy also called for all government departments to channel business through the post office, including motor tax and drivers’ licences.

In relation to the argument that the EU Public Procurement Directive would not allow any interference in the tendering process, Harkin said: “But governments can, and must, use the flexibility contained within that directive to help to ensure that the social as well as economic value systems are embedded in the tender process.

“If we do this it will help to ensure the viability of our post offices,” the deputy concluded.