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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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Snippet Contents:

I also send my best wishes to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.
This is the first urgent Bill to assist in the people’s legitimate desire to see An Post survive, adapt to a changing world and continue to provide its crucial services to all. As such, it is to be welcomed even if its effect will see the cost of certain services rise. The urgency of the Bill, while welcomed, has not been accompanied by urgent Government action in the retention of postal services for all the people. I note that another purpose of the Bill is to give An Post further remit as the universal service provider of postal services, which again is laudable. However, any reasonable person looking at the Bill, which claims to enable An Post to be a universal postal service regardless of geographical location, will probably be very puzzled, as was I. Perhaps I am wrong. However, An Post providing a universal postal service, regardless of geographical location is a fine statement that is similar to the language the new President-elect uses. It does not stand up and is simply not true to reality.
While we are talking about protecting this universal service provider, regardless of geographical location, An Post is closing rural post offices throughout Ireland. Just before Christmas, when I should have been expecting a Christmas card, I received a telephone call from An Post. It informed me that my local post office in Laragh-Glendalough would be closing in January. This was shocking enough but, when we look at it further, the decision does not make any commercial sense. Laragh has had a post office for more than 150 years. The reason it has had a post office for this length of time is that Laragh is located beside one of Ireland’s oldest and most popular visitor attractions, the monastic city of Glendalough and the spectacular valley that surrounds it. Laragh is a small village in Wicklow that happens to receive 1.5 million visitors a year. It is worth repeating that An Post is about to close the post office in Laragh, where there are 1.5 million potential customers a year. Most businesses I know would break their necks trying to get access to such a potential market but An Post decides to close the post office and to do so over the Christmas period in order that nobody will notice.
The people of Laragh and Glendalough noticed and I commend them for their swift actions in defence of the service. When I arranged a meeting with officials from An Post, I was told that it was surprised at the lack of feedback from the public during the consultation period. Not one submission was received. I informed them that this was because the public had not been consulted and that this reason alone should delay the decision. The post office in Laragh should be an example of how the Government is listening to the people and attempting innovative flexible solutions while taking advantage of the unique opportunities that this rural Wicklow village offers. When it comes to political leadership on this matter, however, it seems that the Department believes that the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is in charge because of the rural post office network group that is co-ordinated from the Department. Confusion when it comes to political leadership is dangerous.
The Government continually talks about listening to the concerns of rural Ireland and responding with actions, but its fine intentions will mean nothing if rural post offices continue to close. If An Post management cannot find the business sense and, dare I say it, the cop-on to see the opportunities that lie in Laragh, what credibility will any promise to protect rural post offices in other parts of Wicklow or, for that matter, Ireland have? All the Ministers involved in this area of policy are rurally based Deputies. They know as well I do the value of the rural post office. If An Post will not act, I implore the Ministers to act to ensure An Post implements the actions in the Kerr report immediately and prevents the closure of viable rural post offices such as that in Laragh.
As a community, we are now asking the Minister to ask An Post to postpone the decision to close the post office in Laragh, to allow time for consultation which did not take place and discussion with all interested groups, to afford Laragh the opportunity to demonstrate how vital the post office is in our community, and to allow the obvious potential of a post office in Laragh to be explored and enhanced. If Laragh cannot retain a post office when it has 1.5 million potential customers, two hotels, five retail shops, two restaurants, 30 bed and breakfast establishments, additional seasonal commercial activity, a community centre that has won awards for innovation and is a model of how social enterprise can work and an expanding school, what hope is there for any rural post office?