Postmasters and the communities they serve are to protest outside Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s constituency office next Tuesday demanding clarity on what action Government will take to save 600 Post Offices.
The Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) said the Taoiseach, as leader of the government, must take responsibility for the current political fiasco regarding the Post Office Network and Postmasters will be calling for his resignation if he does not act swiftly to clarify the situation.
The protest comes as responsibility for the Post Office Network has fallen into a political limbo, after Minister of State Michael Ring handed back responsibility for the Network to Minister Naughten, following a reported heated exchange at the Cabinet.
IPU General Secretary Ned O’Hara called for a statement of clarity from the Taoiseach on what his Government will do to avoid up to 600 Post Office closures, which An Post is understood to be considering.
Postmasters also drew attention to the controversial closure of Knockmore Post Office within the Taoiseach’s own constituency, which infuriated the local community at the time of its closure.
The IPU said national representatives, together with local Postmasters and communities from across the Taoiseach’s own constituency, are to protest outside his Castlebar Office at 12 noon next Tuesday – demanding action at the highest political level.
Postmasters have also written to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Denis Naughten calling for an immediate meeting to find out exactly what actions he will take.
Also, the Government sanctioned Bobby Kerr report on the Post Office Network was finalised last December and to date no steps have been taken to implement its recommendations.
IPU Executive member and Dublin spokesperson Dermot Higgins said that the future of the Network is being compromised by a lack of leadership and clarity from Government.
“Surely, the Taoiseach does not want his legacy to be the closure of hundreds of Post Offices.
“It is imperative that we have leadership coming from the Taoiseach and Minister Naughten.
“The Bobby Kerr led Post Office Network Strategy Board report involved input from Postmasters, An Post and Government and is finalised since last December.
“However, following a new Chief Executive coming to An Post, and separate report he has commissioned from Consultants McKinsey, all this work has come to a halt.
“This is not acceptable. Communities want their Post Office to stay open and Postmasters will work to honour this. This Government gave its commitment to the Network at election time and in the Programme for Government. It is now time to walk the walk.
“Government must take leadership on this issue and work together with all parties. It cannot be left to An Post to make decisions purely on the basis of its commercial mandate.
“The social value and role of Post Offices must be recognised and safeguarded by Government. Postmasters will not implement the An Post McKinsey report without consultation and agreement – and will not support any significant programme of closures led by An Post.
“We have invited Minister Naughten to attend Postmasters’ Annual Conference in Westport on May 6th and 7th. That gives him an opportunity to directly address our members and provide clarity on what he intends to do.
“If clarity and confidence are not provided, Postmasters will hold a major rally outside the Dáil calling for the Taoiseach’s resignation and deliver local campaigns in every constituency across the country.
“The IPU recently learned from Minister Ring about a programme, which Government has agreed to, to pilot additional social services through four rural Post Offices involving a Government investment of €100,000.
“While this is a welcome minor initiative, it does not address what is required and we are seeking clarity and leadership for a comprehensive solution led by An Taoiseach and Minister Naughten.”