Budget must throw financial lifeline to rural post offices, says Fianna Fail
A new plan to save the long- term future of rural post offices will be a key Fianna Fail demand during pre-Budget negotiations with the Government.
It comes as senior An Post officials have been asked to appear before a Dail committee next month to explain the closure of 161 rural post offices. They will also be questioned about another proposal seeking 300 redundancies at its O'Connell Street GPO headquarters in Dublin as part of a cost-cutting plan.
Fianna Fail wants the Government to directly invest in post offices to protect the long-term viability of An Post's outlets in rural towns and villages.
The party's communications spokesperson, Timmy Dooley, told the Sunday Independent the network was worthy of enhanced State support.
These measures will be top of the agenda in talks with Fine Gael as the two parties discuss the upcoming Budget, the last under the terms of the existing confidence and supply arrangement.
"My view is that the State should be providing postal services and access to postal services. It is a vital service," said Mr Dooley.
"It needs to be able to offer additional services but even in circumstances where this does not generate enough transactions to make post offices viable, there should be a public service obligation on An Post to provide services in rural communities.
"If we are not successful in Budget negotiations it will form a key plank in our election manifesto."
Members of the Oireachtas Communications Committee will question the national mail carrier on its cost-cutting scheme, which includes reviewing the use of the GPO in Dublin as its national headquarters.
An Post has been notified of the September 4 meeting and confirmed it will attend.
The company has said that despite more than 100 post office closures in the coming months, 95pc of the population will remain within 15km of a branch.
"We need to understand how they expect the post office network to deliver services for rural dwellers with the way they are cutting it back, as 15km between post offices is way too far for people who live in rural Ireland. It is not acceptable," Mr Dooley added.
"It seems to me that An Post has not considered the idea of State support for continuing services. They are just looking at it in terms of profit and loss. That is the wrong approach."