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Communications Regulation (Postal Services) (Amendment) Bill 2016: Second Stage (Continued)

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 935 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin: Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin] They include the significant trust and goodwill the post office network has developed far and beyond its capacity with its customers, the role of the local post office in social inclusion and in acting as a conduit for two-way information flow and of caring and the knowledge that postmasters and their staff possess about elderly, vulnerable and often isolated customers.

We need to act now to reverse the worrying decline of the post office network. While I do not necessarily agree with removing the bar on having a cap on the price of stamps, unfortunately, if it is the only step we can take now to sustain the network; it is what we must do. We must also introduce other measures, however, and engage in fresh thinking on this issue. I agree that a working group should be established to identify the potential capacity for local post offices to act as hubs, facilitate other services and function as one-stop shops for other Government services such as those on which commitments were given in A Programme for a Partnership Government. The payment of motor tax, for example, and other Government services could be facilitated through the post office network, as could the extension of social protection payments. We often hear of older people who do not have computer facilities or skills. The post office must be able to do this type of work as part of its remit, including by providing printing facilities.

To secure the long-term future of the postal service and maintain an active post office network, we need to introduce a broader range of resources and measures. The network is a vital asset, especially given the scope of the network and the number of people who work in it. Post offices must remain part of the Irish cultural identity. As well as their many practical uses, they serve as strong focal points for communities. It is vital that we defend this key national resource. If the measure proposed in the Bill is a short-term solution while other measures are considered, so be it.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Ba mhaith liom a rá go bhfuil mo bhean chéile ag obair don Phost agus suas go dtí le déanaí, bhí mo dheartháir céile agus a bhean ag obair don Phost chomh maith. Mar sin, tá tuiscint éigin agam ar cad atá i gceist nuair atá daoine ag caint faoi sheachadadh nó bailiú an Phoist agus seachadadh litreacha timpeall na cathrach seo ach go háirithe. Tá sé rí-thábhachtach go ndéanfaimid cinnte de go mbeidh an tseirbhís seo fós ar fáil amach anseo. Tá dainséar mór ann dó, ach go háirithe toisc an t-athrú atá tar éis tarlú le deich mbliana anuas ach go háirithe. Ba léir go raibh sé ag tarlú fiú roimhe sin. Ach go háirithe toisc an idirlíon, le cúpla bliain anuas tá athrú suntasach thar cuimse tar éis teacht ar dhaoine ag scríobh litreacha agus daoine ag cur billí, nuachtán, leabhar agus a leithéid sa phost, ní hamháin in Éirinn ach thar lear.

  Ní gá ach smaoineamh ar cad a tharla ag aimsir na Nollag. Cé mhéad daoine sa Teach a bhfuair téacs ag guí beannachtaí na féile orthu? Roimhe seo, bhí sé sin ar fad déanta i gcártaí Nollag agus cuireadh timpeall sa phost iad. Nuair a thoghadh mé ar dtús, bheadh an-chuid de na Teachtaí ag cur 2,000 nó 3,000 cárta Nollag amach ag gabháil beannachtaí na féile dóibh siúd a thogh iad. Níl sé sin ag tarlú ag an leibhéal sin a thuilleadh, seachas in áit nó dhó. Tá sé soiléir anois go bhfuil daoine tar éis athrú ar mhodhanna eile: an téacs, an ríomhphost, nó fiú fógra sa nuachtán áitiúil. Feictear go leor de sin. Dar ndóigh, déanann muid ar fad cártaí a chur chucu siúd atá gar dúinn, chuig gaolta agus cairde ag amanta áirithe. Ach, don chuid is mó, ní fheiceann mise go bhfuil an líon céanna cártaí - cártaí lá breithe, cártaí Nollag, cártaí Cásca nó cartaí ag amanta eile - á scríobh. Níl aon oiread céanna litreacha á scríobh. Ní hé nach bhfuil daoine ag déanamh comhfhreagrais lena chéile, ach níl siad á dhéanamh sa bhealach a rinne siad é deich nó 20 bliain ó shin nó le na céadta bliana anuas trí chóras poist éigin.

  Tuigimid agus glacaimid leis go bhfuil gá le hathrú suntasach sa slí atá An Post rite agus sa slí a mbeidh an obair atá roimh An Post le déanamh amach anseo. Measaim nach féidir le haon chomhlacht leanúint ag sileadh airgid sa slí atá ag tarlú. Is léir ó na tuairiscí ar fad gur thuig siadsan a dhein na tuairiscí sin agus a dhein an fiosrúchán ar conas an Post a tharrtháil nó a shlánú go raibh fadhb ann. Is trua nach ndearna na Rialtais roimhe seo, ní an Rialtas seo nó an Rialtas deireanach fiú, ach b'fhéidir an ceann roimhe sin arís, gníomhú de réir an méid a bhí os ár gcomhair ag an am sin. Chuala mé roinnt de na Teachtaí níos luaithe ag rá gur chóir go mbeadh an Rialtas seo ag bogadh i dtreo an electronic fund transfer. Is cóir, ach ba chóir go ndéanfadh Rialtas Fhianna Fáil é chomh maith céanna tamall maith de bhlianta ó shin. Bhí mise ag ardú na ceiste sin tamall de bhlianta ó shin, chomh maith le Teachtaí eile sa Teach seo. An fhadhb a bhí ann ná nach raibh ceannaireacht an Phoist ag an am sásta bogadh sa treo sin agus fós tá an cuma air nach bhfuil siad sásta bogadh ar cheann de na mór-rudaí a chuideoidh leo i gcinneadh a dhéanamh ar fhéidireacht an Phoist maireachtáil nó gan mhaireachtáil.

  If An Post cannot move on electronic fund transfers by facilitating all electronic financial transactions in the same way that banks and all other financial institutions can, the minor changes being introduced in the Bill, with which I do not agree, are doomed. Every other financial company, including a number owned by the State as a result of the financial crisis, is able to process financial transactions. EU directives prevent the Government from transferring all of its funds, whether grants to farmers or payments to social welfare recipients and community employment and Tús workers, through the postal service because the service does not have the facility to avail of this substantial wad of money which could be transferred through its system, obviously at some cost. This is a first and long overdue step that should have been taken, not by this Government or its predecessor, but much longer ago. If it were taken, a Government could take a decision to provide for all financial transactions other than international transactions to be made through the service delivered by An Post, a State company. This is an example of strategic thinking. This step would not involve a Government subsidy and, as such, it would not breach the EU rules on Government subsidies. It would be a commercial decision.

  This scale of payment would be one way of keeping An Post afloat. The Irish Postmasters Union has been lobbying for this measure for a long time, especially during the term of the previous Government when the then Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, tried to move as many social welfare payments as possible from the postal service to the banking system. She blamed An Post and the European Union but was eventually persuaded by Deputies to back off on some of her proposed changes.


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