A new attack on the future of the community Post Office in rural areas may be the catalyst in Deputy Michael Healy Rae’s decision to support any new government formation.
Deputy Healy-Rae, while issuing a statement on his own behalf, may withhold support for any new government unless Electronic Fund Transfer letter is withdrawn. We can take it that his stance will be supported by his brother and fellow Kerry TD Danny Healy Rae and any number of rural deputies from around the country.
Economic and Social Services
“The Post Office Network provides highly valued economic and social services in communities across the country and the caretaker government, and future government, must ensure that this value is recognised and protected in the Programme for Government,” said Mr. Healy Rae.
“I would find it very hard to support any party, or future Government, which will not give concrete assurances that these letters will be quickly withdrawn, no further similar letters issued and the Post Office Network clearly supported as the provider of choice for Social Protection payments.
Jobseekers Asked for Details
“The letters were issued last month requesting Jobseekers to return their private bank account details to the Department to enable it to pay them by Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT), rather than by cheque which most people cash at their Post Office.
“It is understood that DSP has also been advising customers, who wish to continue to cash their cheques at Post Offices, that they will not be accommodated and they must change over to the EFT system to ensure continued payment of their benefits.
Uproar from politicians and Communities
“This follows a similar issue last summer when the Department issued a suite of new Social Protection forms encouraging people to sign up to EFT, instead of using the Post Office. The letters were later withdrawn following resistance from Postmasters and uproar from politicians and communities.
Deputy Healy-Rae said he had spoken with the Irish Postmasters Union (IPU) and they are furious: “Assurances were received from the Department of Social Protection last summer that it would cease trying to coerce people into the banks.
Damaging to Communities
“Neither the caretaker Government nor future Government, should be actively directing the transfer of Post Office business to the private banks. This is damaging to our communities and I am strongly opposed to it.
“Postmasters along with Government and An Post are currently involved in a Working Group to develop a five year strategy for Post Offices. It is being Chaired by Bobby Kerr and future payment methods should be discussed, and agreed, through this forum.
“I can’t understand why the Department has issued the letter, while at the same time a Government backed process is underway to develop the Post Office Network,” Deputy Healy Rae concluded.