The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten TD is extremely pleased to welcome today's announcement by An Post on its new vision for the Irish Post Office Network. The announcement is supported by an agreement reached with the Irish Postmasters Union (IPU) executive on proposals for the future of the post office network.
The agreement follows three months of intensive negotiations under the guidance of Mr Turlough O'Donnell SC and has been agreed by both the An Post Board and the IPU Executive. It also includes agreement on a protocol specifically sought by Minister Naughten to help manage the modernisation of the network in a transparent and community focussed manner. Final acceptance of the deal is subject to a ballot of IPU members later this month.
Welcoming the announcement, Minister Naughten extended his particular thanks to Mr Turlough O'Donnell SC and officials from An Post and the IPU executive who have dedicated themselves since January to deliver on this agreement. The Minister said: "I am conscious that acceptance of the agreement is still subject to a ballot of IPU members but today's announcement represents a positive first step in the journey of reinvigorating our national post office network and making it a viable service that meets the needs of communities across the country, particularly in rural areas. The fact that there will be no compulsory closures of post offices is a hugely significant outcome of these negotiations."
Minister Naughten added: "An Post is acutely aware of its social responsibilities and is taking important steps to implement its new strategy. While financial and structural challenges remain, achieving a common view of the actions needed to regenerate the network is of great significance as the company re-builds to secure its future and the network."
The Minister also acknowledges the annual financial results for An Post which reflect "the hard work over the past year to restructure the company and bring it to an operating profit for 2017."
An Post's vision for the renewed Post Office Network centres around the availability of new services across a modernised, revitalised network. These services will include a better range of Government Services, Financial Services and e-commerce services for shoppers and small business owners.
Minister Naughten added: "The local Post Office is best placed to provide support for people who do not want to go online to carry out their day to day business. Representing the largest retail network in Ireland, the network of post offices is the obvious choice as the "offline gateway" for people with its reach, trusted brand and existing strong relationship in our local communities."
"In this context, I asked An Post to develop the concept of 'Digital Assist' whereby the Post Office would provide access for people to a wide range of Government services. Funding of €80,000 has been provided by my Cabinet colleague the Minister for Community and Rural Development Michael Ring to help with rolling out a Digital Assist pilot scheme.
This pilot will see 10 post offices kitted out so people can access online Government services easily. The 10 are to be located in rural post offices and will be in place in the coming weeks.
Minister Ring stated: "I am delighted to be in a position to fund the ten pilot Digital Assist locations as part of the transformation of the post office network. This initiative has the potential to improve access to essential government services and act as a model for rural post offices revitalisation. Post offices are central to rural Ireland and act as an important gateway to government services for many older and vulnerable people.
Minister Ring added: "I commend the IPU and An Post on reaching this historic agreement that will protect the future of the post office network for years to come and allow postmasters to continue to deliver vital services in rural Ireland.
"The work of the Post Office Network Business Development Group, led so ably by Mr. Bobby Kerr, and the Post Office Hub Working Group, made important contributions in bringing us to where we are now. It is timely to recognise the commitment and dedication of all those involved in both groups."
Minister Naughten concluded: 'Today's announcement represents a major milestone and shows that by working together An Post, the IPU and Postmasters, along with Government support, can and will deliver a viable and sustainable future for the post office network for the benefit of the people of Ireland.'