An Post has again defended its decision to shut its Cork Mail Centre in Little Island, and has revealed that both Tánaiste, Simon Coveney, and Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin privately asked the company to reconsider the move on the day the closure was announced.
However, the company again refused to release the consultants' report recommending shutting the Little Island centre over facilities in Athlone and Port Laoise, which were spared the axe.
Senior An Post officials appeared before the Oireachtas’ Communications Committee to discuss the controversial move, which will see the loss of more than 200 jobs by the time the Centre shuts next March.
The committee was told that while the closure of a centre was discussed with government officials over a period of 18 months, no specific facility was identified in these talks.
David McRedmond, chief executive of An Post, also confirmed that he informed Mr Coveney and Mr Martin of the decision on the evening the announcement was made to staff in the centre last June.
“Both the Tánaiste and the leader of Fianna Fáil were very strongly asking us to reconsider the decision and were both clearly unhappy with the decision.
“I was clear that the decision had not been made lightly, that we had used external consultants, that we’d given those consultants an extended period to make sure that the decision we made was a decision that, to the best of our ability was an objective decision about the future of An Post and took into consideration a broad range of issues including issues for reemployment of employees,” he said.
Mr McRedmond also refused a request from Cork South Central Sinn Féin TD, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, to release the consultants' report upon which the decision to close Little Island was based.
It’s got a lot of commercial information. We are in a competitive market so it wouldn’t be right to do so but I think we have shared key elements of it.
Garrett Bridgeman, MD of An Post Mail and Parcels, said analyses of the mail centres showed that cork was not needed as a mail sorting centre, with letter volumes down 50% in the last decade, while parcels business is up 60% in two years and expected to continue to grow:
“All the modeling, all the analysis showed 80% of those parcels were going to originate in the Dublin area and region, and that was a key reason why there is no requirement to have a processing centre in the Cork area."
Mr McRedmond said the fact that the road infrastructure in Munster is better than in the West of Ireland is a factor that worked against the Cork centre.
“A critical issue for mail is to make sure you can do next-day delivery. If, for example, we’d closed a centre in the Midlands, we wouldn’t have been able to guarantee next-day delivery to Donegal,” he said.
He said Cork also offers better prospects to redeploy staff within the company.
While An Post officials told the committee of its efforts to introduce electric vehicles to its fleet for local deliveries, Cork North Central Solidarity TD Mick Barry questioned the environmental impact of the Little Island centre’s closure.
“A letter that’s posted in County Cork to, say Blarney, up until now would have gone to the Cork Mail Centre and then farmed out to Blarney. Now it will go to Athlone or Port Laoise and come all the way back down.
“Presumably in the course of a year there will be hundreds of thousands or millions of letters of that type, and not a single one of the trucks will be an electric vehicle - this will all be done by diesel-powered vehicles.”