Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has said the Government is “absolutely committed” to maintaining the post office network but stressed that no promise could be made that the existing number of outlets could be retained.
Mr Rabbitte said yesterday that the commercial viability of An Post was dependent on its ability to develop new business.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1’s Today with Seán O’Rourke, Mr Rabbitte said post offices had suffered a collapse in their core business as a result of the increasing use of electronic mail.
However, the minister praised An Post for its success in developing a range of new products.
He pointed out that post offices could now be used to pay Garda fines, obtain foreign currency, buy gun licences, and access services such as those of AIB and Aviva.
The minister’s comments follow publication earlier this week of a report commissioned by the Irish Postmasters’ Union which warned that almost half the existing post office network faces closure if An Post loses the contract to handle social welfare payments.
The report by Grant Thornton estimates that 557 of the current 1,150 post offices could close if the Government contract is lost.
An Post currently holds the contract for social welfare payments, with possible extensions for up to four more years.
Mr Rabbitte said that the Government was bound by EU competition law in terms of the need to advertise the tender for the distribution of social welfare payments.
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