I propose to take Questions Nos. 188 and 199 together.
I am aware of the concerns of the Irish Postmasters Union (IPU), which were raised in the course of a meeting with me on 17 September. The IPU has indicated that it will publish a report on the matter this week, which will then be considered by the Department.
An Post is a commercial State body with a mandate to deliver a postal delivery service and a viable post office network. Government remains fully committed to a sustainable post office network as a key component of the economic and social infrastructure in both rural and urban areas. An Post's social value has been particularly evident during the current Covid crisis.
In response to the structural challenges facing the postal sector generally and An Post, the company put in place a Strategic Plan for the medium-long term future of the company. The Plan covers the period 2017 – 2021. In order to implement the Plan, the cost of which was estimated to be in the region of €150m, the Minister for Finance provided a loan of €30m to the company in December 2017 to support the renewal of the post office network (€15m) and the continued fulfilment of a 5 day per week mails delivery service (€15m).
An Post is continuing to undergo vital transformation as part of the delivery of its strategic plan which has seen the company split into two distinct business units, An Post Mails and Parcels and An Post Retail.
An Post is transforming its retail network by delivering new products and new formats. This includes, among other things, diversifying and growing the financial services products it provides for individuals and SMEs to include loans, credit cards and more foreign exchange products; local banking in association with the major banks and a full range of State Savings products. Two new dedicated sub-brands, An Post Money and a new business-to-business brand, An Post Commerce, were launched. Investment by An Post of €50 million in the network is about getting communities to use the enhanced services in their local post office.