Post offices could offer motor tax renewal services, Dáil told

Michael Ring says number of options considered for rural An Post network

Michael Ring: The Minister of State for Rural Affairs said his department was finalising a number of pilot projects for post offices. Photograph: Alan Betson

Michael Ring: The Minister of State for Rural Affairs said his department was finalising a number of pilot projects for post offices. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Government is considering offering post offices motor tax renewal services, Minister of State for Rural Affairs Michael Ring has told the Dáil.

“I acknowledge the important role the post office plays in serving the needs of business and domestic customers alike,’’ Mr Ring said. “In particular, the Government recognises the importance of the local post office in rural Ireland. ’’

He said his officials were finalising a report from the post office hub working group with a view to potentially establishing a number of pilot projects next year.

These include post offices run on a co-operative community basis, operating as “multipurposes spaces’’ for communities, and the introduction of mobile post offices in some parts of rural Ireland.

Mr Ring was responding to a motion from the Independent rural alliance TDs calling on the Government to allow post offices to set up community banking and supply all of the State’s over-the-counter services.

The motion, which was backed by the Opposition, was agreed to by the Government.

Mr Ring said an independent group on the future of post offices, chaired by Bobby Kerr, would be reporting to the board and management of An Post in the next few weeks.

“It will be a matter for An Post to consider these recommendations and to bring their proposals to the appropriate Government Ministers for discussion,’’ the Minister said.

Destined for dustbin

Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae said recent reports of the imminent collapse of the An Post network, and the almost immediate closure of 700 outlets, demonstrated how the current and previous governments had let down middle and rural Ireland.

A critical community service seemed destined for the dustbin, he added.

Mr Healy-Rae said New Zealand’s post office services were in almost the exact same position 15 years ago that Irish outlets are in today. Rather than undo a national network and a serious national asset, Kiwibank was established and turned out to be a wonderful success, he said.

He suggested the national payments system, currently owned by commercial banks, should be handed over to An Post. The company, he added, should be charged with providing a public banking service for every member of the community as required.

Independent TD Michael Harty said post offices were the last commercial or feasible entities in small villages and towns. They were an essential part of community life and would not survive unless they were supported by the Government.

“Those involved are not looking for a subsidy or subvention,’’ Mr Harty added. “They are seeking a transfer of Government business and the development of financial services.’’