A PROTEST calling on the Government to act urgently to maintain the Post Office Network was held outside the GPO on Oliver Plunkett Street yesterday.
The protest was organised by Sinn Féin members in Cork following the announcement that the Montenotte post office will close tomorrow.
Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central, Thomas Gould, has said the loss of the Montenotte post office will come as a major blow to local residents and the community of the northside.
“We felt we couldn’t do anything when they closed the Old Youghal Road one because we were in the thick of Level 5 restrictions then but we feel we have to do something now,” he said.
Mr Gould said Sinn Féin is supporting calls from the Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) for an urgent financial intervention from the Government.
“The Postmasters’ Union is looking for a public service agreement to be put in place and we’re supporting that call.”
A report commissioned by the IPU from business advisors Grant Thornton, and published last September, warned of “unrestrained post office closures” from July 2021.
Grant Thornton’s analysis recommended an annual Public Service Obligation (PSO) of €17 million, which it said would represent strong overall value for money for the State.
Speaking last month IPU General Secretary Ned O’Hara said that a Government financial intervention must be implemented within weeks, or the network as we know it will collapse.
“Postmaster operated Offices face a major challenge from July 1, as a significant reduction in payment rates (an on average fall of approximately 20%) will take effect.
“This is against the backdrop of rising viability pressure in recent years, which Covid-19 has further compounded.
“The difficulty is also related to the delay in additional Government services promised in 2018, but only now being seriously examined,” he said.
Sinn Féin councillor Mick Nugent said post offices are in effect a “community hub” and need to be protected.
“We felt it was necessary to hold the protest due to a number of post offices closing across the northside and the threat of more with Postmasters’ Union concerned about new postmasters not taking over post offices due to the conditions on offer from An Post.
His party colleague and fellow Cork city councillor Kenneth Collins echoed this sentiment saying that post offices are a “vital service” for local communities and important for keeping people connected.
“Some people don’t see a person from one end of the week to the other until they go to the post office to collect their pensions, or to buy a stamp or just to get to the post office to pay bills.
“The Government need to step up to the plate here and recognise that they [post offices] are a vital cog in the wheel in relation to getting services in the community.
“It’s important that we keep the pressure on. There should be a post office in every community.”
In a statement in relation to the closure of Montenotte post office, An Post said efforts were made to maintain the service.
“Montenotte, like the bulk of Ireland’s 930 plus post offices, is run by a self-employed contractor who contracts to provide post office services in a given area.
“An Post is a commercial semi state company and does not receive any form of state payment or subsidy.
“An Post sought to find a new contractor to take on the local service and advertised the Montenotte Park contract on two separate occasions but to no avail.
“Our Postmaster in Montenotte Park post office Ms Mary Pauline Clifford tendered notice of her resignation from her PO contract some months ago.”
Customers will now transfer to St Luke’s Post Office, 900m away. However, there is the option to transfer to a number of the neighbouring post offices in the area, if more convenient.
“We apologise for any inconvenience caused by the closure of Montenotte Park post office and have been working to ease the transition for customers,” An Post added.