It is the responsibility of the Government to realise a long-term plan for the future of the postal service, Independent Deputy Thomas Pringle told the Dáil.
Speaking during a debate on a motion calling for the protection of post offices, he said he was talking about communities like Bunbeg in Donegal whose post office is currently under threat, and communities like Greencastle and Inishowen whose post offices have been given a stay of execution for 12 months.
“The real problem is that the Minister, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, and his Cabinet colleagues do not recognise the value of An Post and of a service that is important to every community in the country,” he said. “The Minister is saying he is limited by competition and public procurement requirements. In fact, those concerns are not as restricting as he claims. He can choose to use social clauses, as provided for under European legislation and used extensively throughout Europe, in France, Greece, Spain, Germany and Italy. The inclusion of such clauses in public tendering contracts means the successful contractor must meet certain social requirements. An Post is ideally placed to satisfy that type of social obligation if the Minister would only choose to deploy such clauses. The problem is that he has chosen not to do so. That is the problem underlying his amendment and it is the underlying problem with Government policy on postal services.
The roll-out of the standard bank account represents another missed opportunity for the Government to safeguard and enhance the viability of rural post offices, he said.
“The failure to take decisive action in regard to social clauses and the roll-out of the standard bank account is killing post offices throughout the State,” he said. “If the Minister is serious about preventing the closure of post offices, he must take action on these fronts without delay, instead of bringing forward an amendment that includes no timescales and no commitments and simply refers to what other Departments need to do. That is not a response to the motion. It speaks of a laissez-faire attitude and an intention on the part of the Government to continue, like Pontius Pilate, washing its hands of its responsibilities regarding the future of post offices in this country.”