An Post recently signalled to the monitoring group its intention to close one of its four mail centres. Workers, rightly, are very worried and fearful that the announcement has been made just weeks before Christmas. In the past An Post often expressed an interest in closing one of the centres, but this time it has shown its hand early. The information I have received in recent days backs this up. Rumours are rife in Cork but also in the other mail centres in Dublin, Portlaoise and Athlone. The rumour is that Cork mail centre is to be targeted for closure or that there is to be a drastic downsizing of operations in the south. I seek confirmation as to whether that is true. I have been told that new equipment has been placed in two or three centres. Will the Minister also confirm if that is true? Nothing new has been placed in Cork mail centre, except the possibility of bad news.
Recently I tabled a parliamentary question to the Minster about the status of plans for Cork mail centre and its continued use in letter processing and other relevant roles, including investment in new equipment and staffing plans, in view of its importance to the region. To my surprise, the reply was not encouraging. I was told that the Ceann Comhairle had to disallow the question because the Minister had no official responsibility to Dáil Éireann in the matter which was an operational one for An Post. My view is that communications are at the heart of this issue and that the possibility of losing 200 jobs just after Christmas in Cork unquestionably matters. The staff are very hard working. Surely their loyalty to An Post matters. In recent months we have seen the closure of many rural post offices, pubs and Garda stations which has left rural communities feeling very isolated. On many occasions I have raised in this House the issue of rural depopulation. Now there is the possibility of urban depopulation as the next phase. Surely we cannot allow that to happen.
Only recently in this Chamber the Minister spoke about the need for An Post to be commercially viable. I accept that, but surely after it has turned the corner and given that it is now profitable, we are trying to fix something that is no longer broken. The fear is that a decision will be made to close this regional mail centre which will leave a very bitter taste in the mouths of loyal employees and their families for a long time. They are taxpayers and also voters in every constituency in County Cork. They have worked in tandem with An Post, with very modest wage increases in the last decade. It must remember that it has benefited greatly from its employees' good will. They now face the possibility of the closure of the only regional mail centre in Cork. Christmas is a short few weeks away. Will the Minister, please, not let this centre close? On behalf of the staff of Cork mail centre at Little Island, I appeal to him to support the retention of the services provided.