Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Communications Michael Moynihan has accused the Government of continuing to undermine the post office network throughout the country.  Deputy Moynihan made the comments after the Department of Social Protection issued another letter to social welfare recipients recommending that they use financial institutions to receive their welfare payments.  The letter claims this represents the best payment option.

Deputy Moynihan said, “It has come to my attention that the Department of Social Protection issued further application forms recent days, urging social welfare recipients to avail of financial institutions as the primary payment option to receive welfare payments.”

Alarmingly, the correspondence sent by the Department states “The department recommends direct payments to your current, deposit or savings account in a financial institution. This is the best payment option for you as you can receive your payment at a time and place that suits you”.

Deputy Moynihan commented: “This is yet another attempt by the Government to undermine the Post Office network which is the very fabric of rural Ireland by encouraging customers to bypass the local post office. Considering that the largest element of business delivered at Post Offices is the payment of social welfare, which accounts for over 30% of all business, moving welfare payments away to the banks will accelerate post office closures.

“Prior to the local elections in May 2014 former Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte issued a statement saying that the cabinet had agreed a whole-of-government approach in ensuring the protection of the Post Office network. However it is now apparent that this was simply a hollow promise that the Government knew it would renege on following the elections.

“Last October the Government indicated that it wanted to remove the option for social welfare recipients to receive the Household Benefits Package payment at a Post Office of their choice. The Government was forced into performing a U-turn after it faced significant resistance to the move from communities across Ireland which recognise the importance of the local Post Office.

“Now it seems the Government is using more covert tactics, by issuing letters under the radar directly to social welfare recipients, in an attempt to undermine the Post Office network. The commitment that was made by Fine Gael and Labour to protect our Post Office network has been broken yet again.

“In February 2014 Fianna Fáil published detailed proposals that set out a plan for consolidating the existing work of the Post Office network while increasing commercial activity in every office. Our policy document recognises that Post Offices are the heartbeat of so many local communities across the country and need to be supported. Unfortunately it seems the Government does not share our view. The time has come for Fine Gael and Labour to stop its attack on what is a vital community service,” said Deputy Moynihan.