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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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Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin I welcome the opportunity to speak to this Bill. As stated by my colleague, Deputy Stanley, Sinn Féin will not support its passage. While I recognise that measures are needed to address the falling volume of postal business and I am cognisant of the fact that the increase in the price of postage stamps was one of many recommendations of the recent Bobby Kerr report on the development of the post office network business, my party does not support this particular recommendation and is concerned that other positive recommendations in the report have not been reflected in the Bill.

This individual measure of raising postage costs for consumers, while failing to develop a broader range of services at post offices, will be counter-productive and push more customers away. The Bill does not simply raise the price cap but abolishes it in its entirety. In the context of liberalisation directives from the European Union on postal services, this measure will allow less well regulated delivery companies to move into the market which could further lower wages and take more of An Post's business. Furthermore, a significant increase in prices now, before the full benefit of developing an expanded An Post service, could jeopardise the viability of many post offices around the country. In my capacity as my party's spokesperson for older people, I am particularly concerned about the implications this would have on senior citizens as they are more likely than others to use mail services rather than electronic forms of communication and they have already been badly affected by post office closures the length and breadth of the country.

It appears too that the position could get even worse. In November, it was reported that 500 post offices could potentially face closure. Aside from the large number of people who could be left unemployed, this would be absolutely disastrous for rural communities and would galvanise the widespread belief that this Government has little interest in rural Ireland. The post office network and rural communities can only be safeguarded if there is the political will. To prevent a swath of closures, the Government must enable the post office network to expand its range of services to ensure its future viability. The Irish Postmasters Union, for example, has outlined its vision of a post office network that can provide State services and increased financial services, among other functions. These include Department of Social Protection services, driver licences and motor tax payments.

The Kerr report was published a year ago. It presented a number of recommendations to allow post offices to thrive by enabling their diversification into financial services, social enterprise and public service delivery. These are positive recommendations which we wholeheartedly support. I urge the Government to act on the implementation of the report as soon as possible. However, the recommendation contained in the Bill of an increase in the price of postage stamps is one that we cannot support for the reasons stated.

Deputy Carol Nolan: Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan As my colleagues stated, Sinn Féin will not support the Bill. An increase in the price of postage stamps was one of many recommendations made in the recent report by Bobby Kerr on the development of the post office network business. However, the Kerr report makes a number of other positive recommendations which the Bill does not reflect or address. Sinn Féin will argue against the Bill because raising postage costs on consumers without first developing a broader range of services at post offices will be counter-productive and will not serve any purpose. Significantly increasing prices before the development of an expanded An Post service could have serious consequences for many post offices, particularly in rural communities.

It is clear, even from the Bill, that the Government does not want to know about rural Ireland because rural Deputies find themselves again fighting for the survival of rural Ireland.

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