Communications Minister Richard Bruton received correspondence pleading for the retention of An Post’s mail centre in Cork — but not on behalf of any of the others threatened with closure.
While June’s announcement that the Little Island facility is to shut with the loss of more than 200 jobs was met with anger and allegations that Cork representatives did little to prevent the closure, thecan reveal that Mr Bruton did not receive any correspondences regarding the other mail centres that had been considered for the axe.
One worker who spoke to RTÉ on the morning after the announcement had claimed: “There wasn’t one politician who came out to us or helped us”.
However, the letters released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that Mr Bruton received no pleas on behalf of centres in Portlaoise or Athlone, but was sent a number of letters of support of the Cork facility.
On December 6, Fianna Fáil TD for Cork North West Aindrias Moynihan wrote to Mr Bruton about the potential closure of the Little Island mail centre.
“Workers in Little Island are very concerned that their centre would be closed,” wrote Mr Moynihan.
“They are arguing for the retention of all four mail centres with at least one being converted to a parcel/package operation based on an Post [sic] current business model. I would be pleased if you could examine the matter giving favourable consideration to their concerns and if you would let me know the up to date position.”
The next day, Tánaiste Simon Coveney’s office forwarded a letter from a union representative at Little Island to Mr Bruton.
The accompanying letter from Mr Coveney’s office made no argument on the issue at hand and merely noted it was forwarding the correspondence “as the contents enclosed are more relevant to your Department”.
The letter from a representative of the Cork Mails Centre branch of the Communications Workers Union was dated November 27, 2018, and outlined staff concerns following An Post’s announcement that one of the four centres was set to close.
The workers are rightly worried and repulsed that this announcement should be made so close to Christmas, with the decision being withheld until after the festive season.
“Staff and their families will be left under a dark cloud of anxiety and uncertainty, hardly conducive to festive cheer,” it read.
The letter claims staff were left with a “bitter taste” in their mouths that the prospect of unemployment loomed after they collectively worked to turn An Post into a profitable operation.
The letter asked public representatives to use their voice in the Dáil to call for the retention of all four mail centres and suggests converting one to a parcels operation.
The following February, Sinn Féin TD for Cork South Central Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire wrote to Mr Bruton amid speculation that Little Island had been chosen for closure.
“It seems perverse when the other 3 centres are in much closer proximity to each other, than any is to Cork, to close the Cork facility,” wrote Mr Ó Laoghaire.
“I would enquire what the plans that you and An Post have to ensure high-quality service by An Post in the south of the Country, and in particular the growth in packages being handled by An Post.
I would appeal to you to ensure that this action is reconsidered, and that the main centre be kept operational, in the interests of the people of the south of the Country, in the interests of An Post, and in the interests of the workers of the mail centre.
Cork City Council also wrote to the Communications Minister following a motion from members calling for the Little Island facility to be spared closure.
The issue was also discussed in the Dáil on November 20 last, when Cork East TDs Pat Buckley (Sinn Féin) and Sean Sherlock (Labour) called for the retention of the Little Island centre, while Laois TD Brian Stanley raised concerns about the Portlaoise centre.
Correspondences directly to An Post are not covered by the 2014 Freedom of Information Act and cannot be released to this newspaper as a result.
A spokesperson said the company received representation across the political spectrum in relation to concerns for the future of the centres in Cork, Portlaoise, and Athlone, which came from a range of public representatives, both local and national.
An Post said it would not disclose further information as it was correspondence between the company and the politicians involved.