Postmasters stunned as union boss resigns
The Irish Postmasters' Union has been plunged into disarray following the shock resignation of its general secretary, the Irish Independent can reveal.
Brian McGann has decided to step down amid grave uncertainty among postmasters over the future of the post office network.
The issue of post office closures has sparked widespread unrest, particularly in rural Ireland, and has prompted Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte to refer the issue to a cabinet subcommittee.
There are expected to be heated exchanges this weekend as postmasters meet in Tralee for the annual conference of the Irish Postmasters' Union (IPU). However, the meeting will now be overshadowed by the resignation of Mr McGann.
A spokesman for the IPU confirmed that Mr McGann has formally submitted his resignation ahead of the conference and will step down in the autumn. The union's president Ciaran McEntee said he was "disappointed" at Mr McGann's decision.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank Brian for his excellent leadership, dedication and commitment to advancing the cause of postmasters," Mr McEntee said.
"We made more progress in the last four years under Brian's guidance than in the previous 20," he added.
While the IPU said that Mr McGann's decision had been made because he wants to pursue other interests, it is understood that he became aware of the growing unrest among postmasters over how effective the union has been in discussions with Mr Rabbitte and An Post.
Mr McGann will now be expected to explain the decisions behind his resignation.
Delegates are expected to voice particular concern about An Post's pursuance of the so-called post point outlets.
The post points, which are located inside supermarkets, offer customers services such as paying bills, sending letters and parcels, topping up a mobile phone and buying stamps.
Unlike post offices, these outlets do not offer customers the opportunity to receive social welfare payments or make banking transactions. There are currently four such outlets in operation in Tesco stores and this number is set to increase.
An Post has not entered into a formal contract with the retailers and is currently operating the outlets on a trial basis.
Independent TD for Kerry Michael Healy-Rae said that the future of post offices was one of the "key issues" being brought up on the doorsteps.
"The bottom line is that unless a lifeline is thrown within the next two years, the mass closures we have been warning about will happen," he told the Irish Independent last night, adding: "There is a realisation that people working in post offices must now become militant to stop the destruction of the network."