A new independent report by Grant Thornton, commissioned by the Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU), recommends that the Government invest with urgency in the Post Office Network, stating that the Post Office Network is capable of significant growth and offers ways to support government policy and to promote efficiencies within Government.
The report points to a €12 million funding gap which needs to be met by government investment if the network is to thrive and grow. This funding gap has been reduced by €5 million (previously estimated at €17 million in a 2020 Grant Thornton Report) through the efforts of postmasters investing in their businesses, working with An Post and Government to secure additional services and responding to community needs with extended opening hours.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Seán Martin, President of the Irish Postmasters Union said; “We have identified a range of government services that can be provided through the post office network that will support government in the delivery of its rural development, remote working, and climate action policies. This is about the government using our network to deliver essential services to Ireland’s citizens and paying us a contracted fee for our work. In doing so, we can close the funding gap and ensure the survival of our post offices.”
Mr Martin outlined some of the critical services which Post Offices can provide.
“The withdrawal of foreign banks from the Irish market and the closure of local branch offices by domestic banks has had a very significant economic and social impact on both rural and urban communities across the country. Approximately 540 post offices in Ireland are located in areas where there are no banks within a 5 km radius. Accessible banking for everyone should be a basic right and it can be met through our extensive network.
“In the same way, with garda stations closed in many communities and to alleviate the administrative burden on gardai, identification services – for passports and driving licences and the maintenance of the electoral register can and should be provided by local post offices.
“We could also be used for other government financial services including as a central hub for the processing and delivery of retrofitting grants”.
“If we want an inclusive society, if we want sustainable communities where citizens can easily access government services and if we are serious about addressing carbon emissions, then the Government must urgently invest in our network. The loss of services to citizens, and the economic impact on other businesses in the community arising from post office closures would make a mockery of the government’s remote working, climate action and rural development policies”.
Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) General Secretary Ned O’Hara said: “The Post Office matters as much today as it did 100 years ago and will be even more critical in the future. We have a modern retail network and we have proven we can adapt to meet the needs of the community. With a full commitment from Government, we can further flex the list of services that we provide. This includes making government services available offline for people who do not have access to the internet or are unable to conduct their business online. No citizen should be left behind in the rush to a ‘digital first’ approach to the delivery of government information and services.”
Mr O’Hara pointed to the post office as a driver of economic renewal stating that a significant proportion of the €6.7 billion in social welfare payments transacted in post offices annually is spent weekly in adjoining retail premises. “We are calling on the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Ministers Eamon Ryan and Hildegarde Naughton to work with Postmasters, who as independent small businesses are driving renewal and economic activity in our communities. We have the vision; we have proposals, and now we want to see action. If Government fail to act it will be a missed opportunity that will be regretted by future generations.”
The Grant Thornton report is an independent analysis and evaluation of the economic contribution and financial position of the Irish Post Office network and the market conditions faced by Irish postmasters.