A million Christmas cards are still in the post


More than one million Christmas cards and other mail posted in the greater Dublin area in the last working days before Christmas have yet to be delivered, according to An Post.

The company's head of communications, Mr John Foley, said about 1.2 million items posted on December 20th and 21st, the "vast majority" of which were Christmas-related, would be delivered today and tomorrow.

He said the delays were caused by a combination of late posting, and difficulties with sorting festive cards. Such items tended to be in coloured envelopes of irregular size with handwritten addresses, all of which caused problems for automatic sorting machines.

"We did say 'post early' to avoid this but because Christmas fell on a Wednesday a lot of people left it to the previous Friday, Saturday and Sunday to send off their cards. The majority of those cards are not readily machineable and have to be done manually," said Mr Foley.

He noted the delays were restricted to mail posted in Dublin, Louth, Meath and Wicklow, which had to be processed at the Dublin Mail Centre. The largest of four An Post sorting hubs, it handles about 60 to 65 per cent of the State's post.

Mr Foley said mail volumes were already higher than normal this year, with the company recording a 5 per cent increase in mail on 2001. Combined with this was a seasonal boost in volumes, partly resulting from the alignment of the tax year to the calender year, which meant more business-related post around Christmas.

Metered and franked mail was prioritised in the days running up to Christmas Day, while any cards posted on December 19th or earlier should have been delivered, Mr Foley said. He added that deliveries of mail posted on December 22nd or later should resume next Thursday as there would be no deliveries on New Year's Day.

Meanwhile, the company has rejected claims that it has failed to properly inform customers that pre-euro stamps will no longer be valid from tomorrow.

Ms Patricia McKenna MEP, of the Green Party, said An Post was "showing total disregard for its customers" by not mounting a publicity campaign to inform people of the deadline. She claimed postal services in other European countries had adopted a fairer approach, with the Belgian service accepting its old stamps indefinitely, and the Finnish service allowing them until 2011.

Rejecting the criticism, Mr Foley said "we shouted very loudly from the roof-tops at the time of the euro changeover that dual-denominated mail would be operational until the end of this year."

He said Ms McKenna was implying that people had "hoards of stamps" in their homes but the company had no evidence of this.