700 Post Offices in total are under threat. I totally accept the value of post offices, the value of one aspect in particular; I think of elderly people who are not IT-savvy and who are not doing their business or paying their bills online because they do not have those skills. Then there are those who do have the skills but they do not have broadband access. In the absence of that, post offices provide a very valuable service.
We discussed this topic last year in the Dáil and there was widespread agreement on the value of the postal network. There is a commitment in the programme for a partnership Government to protecting the postal network. It is time to put the fine words into action as the postal network is evidently under threat.
I acknowledge the value of the postal network to rural areas but it also provides a value in urban areas. I know very well the work and services provided by post offices throughout Dublin Central. There is a trust in post offices which we do not see in banks. When one goes into a post office there is a point of human contact. There is a person at the desk who can answer one’s questions, respond to queries and who has the time and patience to deal with people. They know the customers, their families and circumstances. When one goes into a bank, increasingly, the service is from a machine. If one uses telephone banking one has to dial 1 for this, dial 2 for that and suddenly one is at dial 6 or 7 and the process is extremely frustrating unlike in the post office where there is a person to help which is much better.
I like the idea of community banking but I wonder whether there is a role for credit unions. Most communities that have a post office also have a credit union and perhaps they could complement each other. Post offices have massive potential to complement the work they are already doing and we should examine the possibilities in that regard. Despite the closures the post office system is working well, and I question why we are undermining a system that is going well. If we want post offices to continue there is also an onus on the those who want them to stay to use them as much as they can.