Fianna Fáil TD for Wexford John Browne has called on the public to engage in a new public consultation process aimed at identifying the best way forward for developing the Post Office network over the coming years.

Deputy Browne made the comments following the publication of an Interim Report by the Post Office Network Business Development Group. The report, chaired by Bobby Kerr, has resulted in the establishment of a six week public consultation process.

Deputy Browne commented, “I welcome publication of this important interim report. The Post Office Network Business Development Group has been tasked with identifying ways forward for ensuring we maintain a strong post office network across Ireland.

“Some aspects of the report are encouraging and offer hope for communities across Ireland who rely on post offices to support community life. The report outlines that there is an opportunity for post offices to develop the services that they offer. However this can only occur if the Government decides to invest in our post offices. Unfortunately, to date, the Government has been eroding services at our post offices.

“I am calling for the immediate withdrawal of the new Social Protection Forms that were issued by the Government last month. These forms undermine the post office network by encouraging people to migrate to banks when interacting with the Department of Social Protection. This move will seriously damage post offices over time by reducing footfall substantially. There is no basis to encourage people to move their transactions as post offices are providing a satisfactory service as it is, and with further Government encouragement these services can be improved.

“I would encourage the public to engage with this new consultation process so that they can highlight the importance of the local post office to them. Consultation forms are available on the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources website. The consultation process will continue until the end of July and a final report from the Post Office Network Business Development Group is expected by September.

“Fianna Fáil believes that post offices are an integral part of local communities, and we will be making a strong submission to highlight that the post office network should be developed rather than degraded” said Deputy Browne.