Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Questions (54)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

54. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he will consider introducing a public service obligation to help sustain the nationwide post office sector. [13093/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

A lot of work has been done over the past few years to develop the post office network and this has had a positive effect for both postmasters and customers. This momentum needs to be maintained and if An Post, the postmasters and Government work together we can ensure that the network can emerge as a central hub for a wide variety of valuable community-focused services.

An Post last week announced a new partnership with Bank of Ireland to offer personal and SME withdrawal and lodgement services to Bank of Ireland customers across the An Post network of 940 post offices nationwide. This follows the announcement by Bank of Ireland that it is to close over 100 of its offices in Ireland. This builds on the agency banking services An Post already provides for a number of other leading banks including AIB and Ulster Bank with more than 4.5 million transactions and a cash value of almost €1.5bn annually.

While it is longstanding Government policy that postal services will not be directly subsidised by the Government, we remain fully committed to a sustainable post office network as a key component of the economic and social infrastructure in both rural and urban areas. I met with representatives of the  Irish Postmasters' Union last week to discuss the future of the network and how Government can support it's continued viability.

Government believes An Post has untapped potential to do more and make a further significant contribution across many areas of public, business and community life in Ireland. As a first step, Government noted the Offline Services Report this week and agreed to establish an Inter -Departmental Group co-chaired by my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to examine the feasibility of directing more Government business to the post office network; that Group will report back to Government by the end of July.

In the circumstances, there are no proposals to introduce a Government funded subsidy for the post office network.