All to play for in Limerick as An Post plan for network goes out to ballot

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

The community of Old Pallas, pictured last year showing their support for postmaster  Denis O’Dwyer and the closure of the post office, which earned a reprieve

The community of Old Pallas, pictured last year showing their support for postmaster Denis O’Dwyer and the closure of the post office, which earned a reprieve

THE strength and shape of the network of post offices in Limerick, city and county, will not become clear for several months yet.  

But, following three months of negotiations, a new plan for the national network  has now been hammered out between the Irish Postmasters Union(IPU) and An Post. New post offices in the city could result from this plan  but one seasoned observer reckons there could be as many as five or six closures in the county. 

“We believe that this is the best possible negotiated solution for the future of the Post Office Network,” IPU President Paddy McCann said following a meeting of hundreds of IPU members in Tullamore at the weekend.

“It ensures viability of as large a network as possible, ensures that the public will continue to get an excellent and expanded service and provides viability and clarity for Postmasters.”

Members will now be balloted on the proposals but a result is not likely before the end of May. And it could be some time after that before a clear picture emerges for  Limerick.

The plan however commits An Post to maintaining an office within 15km of any community over 500 in rural areas and within 3km in urban areas and to 20 new post offices could open as a result.  An Post has also pledged to invest €50m in the system.

An Post, according to one source, will be offering “exit packages” to anything up to 380 post offices around the country, offices identified as having too little turnover, or located too near a bigger office or where the postmaster/mistress is of retiring age. But these offers are voluntary and he believes new business is the only way to keep post offices in operation.

Already, Broadford postmaster Tom O’Brien has received his offer. But, he said: “I won’t be taking it. It is not compulsory.”

However, he welcomed the new plan because it offers stability after a lot of uncertainty.  “A lot of people were happy with it,” he said of the Tullamore meeting. “It was the best deal that could be got. They were haggling for years.”

Ballylanders postmistress Mary O’Brien has also welcomed the fact that a plan is now on offer. “It gives us a clear picture, what it might hold for ourselves,” she said. “Before it was all ‘if’ and ‘where’.

Everybody in the business will have to sit down and study what is on offer and see what is best for them, she added. The key was footfall. “It is awfully sad to say but once the older generation goes, there is nobody to take their place.”  she said. For all that, she added: “I still love it.”

IPU General Secretary Ned O’Hara said that the IPU Executive was unanimously in support of the new plan which it will present to its members before carrying out a ballot over the coming weeks.

It also urged  An Post and Government to deliver quickly on the commitment to new government and financial services in all Post Offices to secure growth in transactions.

Parcel post has increased by 30 per cent over the past year and An Post’s revenues increased by just over one per cent in 2017 when the company made a profit of €8.4m as against losses of €12.4m in 2016.