Garda role for post offices floated
Post offices could be transformed into mini garda bureaux under new proposals to save the country's struggling network.
Workers in Ireland's 1,150 post offices could carry out basic police administration in a bid to raise more revenue and prevent future closures.
This was one consideration in a report from a cross-party Oireachtas committee, which made a string of recommendations to make post offices more sustainable.
Sinn Fein's Michael Colreavy, who sits on the committee, insisted the measures would require no additional costs - just a new mind-set.
He said: "Most of the proposals in this report require not additional funding, but a different way of thinking - a different range of services to be made available at the local post office. It requires different Government departments to think about the viability to deliver these services."
The report suggested following a model due to be piloted in the UK, in which its post office network is in talks with 10 police forces about providing limited services. The Mayor of London's office is looking at a pilot scheme this summer to see police points of contacts in post offices and other public buildings to act as a lost property desk or take petty crime reports.
The committee report urged the Government to consider that idea but also to use post offices for processing motor tax renewals, hospital charges, water charges, property tax, business rates, rents and other public payment services.
Around 400 post offices are threatened with immediate closure if An Post fails to secure a contract to process social welfare payments - the contract is currently out to tender.
Meanwhile, the Aer Lingus chief executive has been appointed chairman of An Post. Christoph Mueller, who had management roles in Deutsche Post and DHL before joining the airline, was asked to take on the role by Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte.
Mr Rabbitte said: "An Post has a great brand and an important nation-wide network. It provides very important services to communities throughout Ireland. However, in the internet era, the company also faces significant challenges. The company will benefit from the strategic leadership approach that Christoph Mueller has brought to Aer Lingus."