An Post urged to support new services in bid to save post offices

The union representing the country’s postmasters has called on An Post to support new services and innovations across its network in a bid to save post offices across the country.

Sean Fogarty, who started the country's first VideoDoc booth at Ballymore Eustace Post Office, Co Kildare. Picture: Adrian Melia

The Irish Postmasters’ Union (IPU) annual conference takes place in Westport, Co Mayo, this weekend, and the organisation said it will use the occasion to call on both Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Communications Minister Denis Naughten “to take political leadership on the issue”.

“The post office network is currently in a political limbo, with responsibility currently being transferred from Minister of State Michael Ring to the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten,” said IPU general secretary Ned O’Hara.

“However, this has not happened yet and post offices are in a political no man’s land at the moment. The Taoiseach and Minister Naughten must ensure that the network is a political priority.”

The IPU says it has agreed to engage in a month-long talks process with An Post to plan the future of the post office network, and Mr O’Hara said postmasters are hopeful that the implementation of innovative ideas will feature in the discussion.

“An Post has asked postmasters to take part in a new planning and negotiation process for the next month. This is a case of deja vu as we already participated with An Post in the development of the Bobby Kerr-chaired report during 2015 and 2016,” said Mr O’Hara.

“Postmasters feel betrayed that the Bobby Kerr proposals have not been delivered on. However, we will commit to a further process and will be encouraging creative thinking on how we can maximise services which are offered through the network.

Sean Fogarty consulting an online doctor at the VideoDoc booth at Ballymore Eustace Post Office. Picture: Adrian Melia

“We need to move ahead with delivering motor tax and basic banking services — within an agreed plan for the future.

“We also need to look at how post offices can support more public and financial services — as well as transport, tourism, and training in communities.”

One such idea cited by Mr O’Hara is the health booth launched this week at a post office in Kildare.

VideoDoc has this week unveiled a partnership with Fogarty’s Quickpick and post office in Ballymore Eustace, offering online GP and medical consultations from a booth in the post office.

“An Post needs to embrace these types of opportunities and look ambitiously towards what the network can deliver for communities, rather than trying to push through closures,” said Mr O’Hara.

VideoDoc said its service is primarily for minor ailments or straightforward consultations, and doctors will have the ability to triage, treat, diagnose, prescribe, and follow up with patients, while the booth will also offer access to other health consultations such as dermatology.

The trial in Ballymore Eustace will be monitored for suitability for national rollout to other members of the IPU.

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