FIANNA Fáil Deputy for Cork East Michael Moynihan called on the Government and the Minister for Communications to ensure that An Post retains the role of providing vital services.
Deputy Moynihan said he accepted the independence of An Post but for generations there had been an ongoing debate about the survival and maintenance of rural post offices. It was tied in with other issues such as rural isolation, he added.
"We may have ghost estates but we also have ghost villages. Communities are losing their post offices not just in rural areas but in urban areas as was seen in Blackpool in Cork city recently," said Deputy Moynihan.
"Since I was elected, every communications Minister has said they want to provide a network of commercially viable post offices. The Minister stated An Post should seek further contracts. However, we do not see any urgency in this regard.
"We have heard at public meetings and so forth that An Post should go into providing different services such as county council bills, but there never seems to be an urgency for it to go after these contracts.
"There must be a drive to ensure the post office network becomes a provider of other services," urged the Deputy.
The Minister for Communications Deputy Pat Rabbitte agreed that as a result of the collapse of the core business of An Post there needed to be an urgency, in terms of acquiring new business and diversification and so on.
"In fairness to An Post, it has been going about its business quietly and in a commercial manner and it continues to do so. For example, there is an arrangement between An Post, One Direct and Aviva, which has seen 23 Aviva insurance branches become One Direct outlets for An Post. This is the type of venture that could be built on because An Post has a unique retail infrastructure," pointed out the Minister.
An Post has been chasing contracts and opportunities, including motor tax renewals, driving license renewals, HSE patient charges, household charge payments, second home payments, water charge payments, Courts Service fines, the registration and payment for septic tanks, Irish Rail ticket sales and electrical rural production, added the Minister. "An Post chases all of this business and it wins more than its fair share. These are the types of contracts that represent the future of part of the business of An Post."
Deputy Moynihan went on to suggest that An Post should be the first port of call for the payment of bills that will accrue from the forthcoming Water Services Bill.
"There is a fear in rural communities in particular and in urban communities that they are awaiting the retirement of the postmaster or postmistress. Something should be included in the legislation to the effect that the first port of call for the payment of bills from the Water Services Bill should be the post office," said Moynihan.
Government has undermined ethos of the Lottery: McLellan
UNDER Fine Gael and the Labour Party, the National Lottery will become a mechanism by which the Government can generate additional revenue, Cork East Sinn Féin Deputy Sandra McLellan warned in the Dáil.
This completely undermined the ethos of the lottery but was completely in line with the administration's small government view of the world, she added.
Speaking on the National Lottery Bill, the Deputy said that concerns had lingered over the years that National Lottery funding for communities had in fact replaced funding of services that should be paid for directly by the State and such concerns undoubtedly would be heightened under the current regime.
"The Government's capital programme announcement of late 2011 stated boldly that it intended to use the upfront payment from the new National Lottery operator to fund the National Children's Hospital," she said. "It appears as though this capital funding commitment has now been watered down to receipt of just one third of the projected proceeds from the upfront payment," claimed Deputy McLellan.
Prison system needs to be amended says Bradford
SPEAKING in the Seanad on a Justice Bill, Cork East Senator Paul Bradford said recent statistics show there is a high rate of re-offending in Ireland which is proof that the prison system needs to be amended.
"We need to debate law and order and prison policy but we only do that when there is a crisis after a major crime outrage," he said. "I am not talking about the recent tragedy where a garda was murdered. Following an increase in robberies we usually have a debate on crime and the resultant analysis is to throw away the key.
"On other occasions we reflect on the Finnish or other systems. Such a rolling debate needs to take place in a calmer environment."
With regard to the new Justice Bill, he said "we are putting in place a new concept. Like all legislation one does not necessarily get it right the first time around. The proposal of a spent conviction facility is a new departure and will make a genuine difference to many people.
"At Christmas I had a query from a young gentleman who was convicted for stealing a bag of chips. The conviction caused him problems when it came to gaining employment. I hope that the matter can be resolved."