Another 500 post offices face closure in shake-up
Postal boss rules out 'costly' new bank despite pledge to offer better services in bigger outlets
Post Office closures are inevitable after An Post said more than 500 could shut and have no impact on the organisation's public obligations.
The Dail showed unanimous support last week for a bill aimed at protecting rural post offices, despite An Post Retail Operations Manager, John Daly, saying 700 of the country's 1,131 post offices are not viable.
Mr Daly said post offices must become more sustainable if they are going to survive.
"That necessarily does not mean we will have the same number of outlets as today but I believe that going forward you could have a scenario providing lesser locations but a lot more services, whether that be government services or banking services."
He added that An Post only needs to retain 600 post offices to meet Department of Social Protection Obligations.
These force An Post to have outlets available within 3km of 95pc of people living in urban areas or 15km in rural areas. "We will be looking to improve the look and feel of the bigger offices and the services in the bigger offices, but the smaller offices have to be dealt with as part of a bigger overall strategy, we believe," said Mr Daly.
He has ruled out setting up a bank within the post office network because the costs and obligations involved are too prohibitive.
This is despite a Government pledge to explore the idea of establishing new community banks based on models adopted in post offices in Germany and New Zealand.
"We tried that. We set up Postbank in cooperation with Fortis just before the banking crisis.
"Unfortunately, as part of the banking crisis, that collapsed.
"Our strategy now is to grow our financial services," he added.
TDs from the Rural Alliance have called on the Government to invest in the modernisation of the post office network and to establish an action plan to protect the postal service.
They said these plans should include implementing a new community banking service across the country that would serve rural and disadvantaged areas abandoned by the current banking model.
Kerry Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae, who runs a post office in Kilgarvan, said it is premature for An Post to rule out developing a bank in rural communities.
"There would be a big opening for community banking based on one of the other models from around the world.
"In New Zealand, their post offices were about to close but now they are recording massive profits through the banking model.
"We can learn from what other people have done," he added.