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Communications Regulation (Postal Services) (Amendment) Bill 2016

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Communications Regulation (Postal Services) (Amendment) Bill 2016\Second Stage
Bills\Communications Regulation (Postal Services) (Amendment) Bill 2016\Second Stage

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Communications Regulation (Postal Services) (Amendment) Bill 2016

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Timmy Dooley

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Snippet Contents:

Fianna Fáil will support this vital Bill which offers a valuable lifeline to our post office network. There will be another opportunity to address the difficulties faced by the post office network such as the one we had yesterday evening at the joint committee where we met all the stakeholders.
With 1,130 post offices around the country, An Post is Ireland's largest retail network and one with considerable reach into some of Ireland's most underserved communities. It is one of our most vital assets, particularly in rural areas where post offices have long since served as informal community centres and hubs of administration. Post offices are where we go not only to send post or to pick up our pensions, but to catch up with neighbours and to hear the local gossip. For many people living in rural Ireland, the post office is one of the few places where they can still go to socialise and meet other people. Post offices offer a particular sense of security and a feeling of not having been forgotten, something which is especially important as we see more and more rural Garda stations, pubs, and community centres being forced to close their doors.
Unfortunately, most of us are familiar with the difficulties experienced by the An Post network, particularly in recent years, as we have seen the population shift from rural to urban areas. The advent of digital technology combined with this Government's neglect of the network has left many branches struggling to make ends meet. Between 2011 and 2014, there were 24 net closures and, indeed, since 2014, a further 16 offices have closed. This means that in just five years, approximately 3.5% of our post offices have had to close their doors. I have met many of these postmasters and postmistresses who, despite every effort to the contrary, have been forced to close the doors of their post offices. For these people and the people that they have spent decades serving, the decision to close a post office cannot be taken lightly or ignored. It is devastating and has caused a lot of anxiety for people around the country who are running and relying upon post offices in their various guises. As such, we are all in agreement that something must be done to save our post office network.
In its programme for partnership Government, the Government pledged to act swiftly on the recommendations of the post office business development group and to take a number of immediate actions to ensure the sustainability of the An Post network. These recommendations were very much welcomed when they were announced. Fianna Fáil has been persistent and explicit in its calls on the Government to meet these promises and in this regard we have not been alone. The wider An Post network, the Irish Postmasters' Union, and several other organisations have joined us in demanding that the Government take meaningful action to preserve the post office network.