Volume 3, Number 9
Irish Philatelic Newsletter
Volume 3, Number 9 September, 2001
A periodic publication for the members of the Éire Philatelic Association, the Irish Airmail Society, the Irish Philatelic Circle and the Forschungs-und Arbeitsgemeinschaft Irland e.V. The newsletter will be e-mailed to all interested members.
Published and edited by Michael Connolly
Éire Philatelic Association Makes Donations
The ÉPA Officers and Board of Directors have voted to donate $1,000 to the New York Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund to aid the families of those heroic men who lost their lives so tragically on September 11.
The Commodore John Barry chapter of the ÉPA is donating $100 to the same cause.
The New York Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund is a non-profit organization that assists the families of fallen New York City firefighters and police officers. The Fund provides funds to families at the time of a death to assist with immediate expenses. In addition, the benefit fund distributes an annual check to each of the surviving families.
Ireland to shut down for day of mourning
14-09-01, 00:15 By Fiona McCann
Ireland will come to a standstill tomorrow as in a national day of mourning for the victims of the United States terrorist atrocities.
Banks, businesses, schools and State Departments will all be closed and transport companies will operate a limited Sunday
Earlier the Taoiseach Mr. Ahern said Irish people were “shocked to the core”, added: “We will show our solidarity with the
victims, the families, and the people of the United States”.
Mr. Ahern, and the President Mrs. McAleese, will attend an ecumenical service at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin to mark the
Employers are being urged to close their premises in sympathy with all those killed and injured in the attacks. Employees are
entitled to a paid day off.
Those requiring further information on the matter can contact the Employment Rights Information Unit at the Department of
Enterprise, Trade and Employment at low-call telephone numbers 1890-201615 or 1890-220222 or 01- 6313131. The
service is available from 9.30 this morning until 8.00 p.m.
A Book of Condolences has been opened at Government Buildings on Merrion Street, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
tomorrow and Saturday.
People can also sign their expressions of sympathy electronically at www.thetaoiseach.com.
Tears and shock as Irish people remember US victims
By David Labanyi 14-09-01, 00:12
They came in their hundreds. Since 7 a.m. this morning people have queued outside the US Embassy in Ballsbridge to sign a
book of condolence.
Wreaths and bouquets – most with a written message – cover much of the embassy walls and railings. Some people just sign
their name, others leave a more personal message.
A weeping Angela, from Dublin, placed a bunch of white flowers because of the three-year-old child (Juliana Clifford
McCourt who died on one of the planes with her mother, Ruth).
“I have a little girl, a three-year-old, myself. It was just seeing her face on the television last night and then the aftermath of the plane crash. It just got me.
“And then all the thousands of thousands of people who died. It’s just so overwhelming. There are no words to describe the
way the Americans are feeling, the flowers are just a mark of respect,” she said.
Angela said the flowers were white to represent innocence and included a pink teddy bear for the Juliann. The inscription
reads: “For Juileann and all the other victims who were savagely taken from our world. You’re in a better place now. God
bless you all”.
Dubliner Paul Hegarty signed the book of condolences because he was at a loss what to do. “I’ve no relatives over there – it
just seemed the humane thing to do – to pay my respects.
As he is speaking, a car pulls up and a young woman swiftly adds another bunch of flowers before driving away.
Mary was returning from an interview in Belfast when she heard. “From what I saw, it was frightening. All these people
heading to a day’s work. I’ve been to the towers – the view is amazing. I saw all the people at work – just like here – and
then they get hit by the planes. That was unreal.
“I had to go and phone my sister and friends who are thankfully fine but shaken. I wanted to sign the book to show we are
thinking of you”, she said.
Derek Finegan (26), returned to Ireland in 1999 following six years study in West Virginia. “I’ve a lot of friends working the
World Trade Center and I’m still trying to get word to them. There is a profound deep sadness that is unbelievable,” he said.
Music student Ruth Archbold, (21) heard on the radio about the book of condolences and decided to come over. A feeling
of powerlessness was urging people to come and sign the book, she said. “This is more for the people – to actually do
something. Because there is nothing we can do. We can’t volunteer our help so this is a way of just doing something.”
Adrian from, Killiney jumped on a train to “add my small voice”. While any US response to has to “considered”, he said
military action would have to be “less than one-for-one”.
An American mother and her daughter travelling in Ireland have been overwhelmed by the response of the Irish people.
Rosemary Murphy, from Ohio was on a coach tour on Tuesday when she heard the news. The coach stopped and they
watched events unfold in a pub in “one of your small towns”.
Pointing at the US flag at half-mast, her mother, Shelia, was somber about the consequences. “This is war they have declared. Pearl Harbour was one thing. When you come into our country its another story.”
The Book of Condolences will be available outside the Embassy until at least 9 p.m. this evening. The Embassy confirmed it
would be available tomorrow and also over the weekend.
The following message is from Liam O’Neachtain. Liam has worked with the ÉPA for several years in organizing stamp
clubs for young people in Ireland. I told Liam I would share his message on this side of the pond.
In the link, note that the Irish Times did not publish today out of respect for the day of mourning.
Greetings from Ireland : on this saddest of days for everyone in your country and around the world.
We witnessed in disbelief the events, which happened in New York and Washington in the early hours of Tuesday morning. We have been stricken with sadness as we watch the consequences of those events unfold on out TV screens on an hourly basis.
I am writing to extend our deepest sympathy to you and all Americans especially to the families and friends of those who lost their lives so tragically on Tuesday.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all those families who mourn their loved ones.
Our thoughts and prayers are also with your President, as he contemplates these events in the days and months ahead. We ask God to guide him and his advisors.
May God be with you to bring you all, courage, strength and hope on this sad day ?
In Ireland to-day we share that grief as the country has come to a standstill with all businesses, factories, schools etc. closed to enable us to share this National Day of Mourning with you across the Atlantic.
Today we think of America, who opened its shores to so many Irish in the past and continues to do even to-day, so they could have a better future in America.
You can follow this link to read about our day in Ireland :
�God bless America�
And all your friends in Ireland
Amongst the many tatty covers in my collection is the attached posted at Clough Co Down on 5 November 1880 addressed to Bray. The office of posting and date are well confirmed by the backstamps.
The curiosity about this otherwise routine cover is the <143> numeral postmark cancelling the stamp. It is a poor strike and you may need well to turn it upside down to be able to confirm the number. But, look at the bars! At the right hand side at least they give every impression of being vertical. All other Irish diamond cancellations seen have horizontal bars at the sides (some spoon cancellations of the 1850s excluded) So! perhaps it is a double strike with the second strike at 90 degrees to the first. Possible …….but I have another example of the same postmark with vertical bars to the right (an equally bad strike) dated 4 July 1880.
Can anyone produce a decent example of this curiosity to confirm its existence or otherwise?
ÉPA Annual General Meeting
It is with great regret that I have made the decision, after conferring with the other officers, to cancel our Annual General Meeting in Milwaukee.
I feel bad that the Milcopex committee has been so hospitable in hosting our society and at the last minute we have to cancel, but in view of the terrorist attack on our country, I’m sure they will understand.
Thank you all for your support in putting together the program which we had hoped to have this weekend.
David J. Brennan, President
Monday, 4 May 1998
Many post offices are on �death row�
The outlook for hundreds of rural post offices has been compared to being �on death row� by the general secretary of the Irish Postmasters� Union, Ms Vera Hogan. At the union’s 100-delegate conference in Limerick at the weekend, she said the Government’s public policy of no post office closures was the opposite of An Post’s policy.
She claimed the company’s refusal to introduce automation to almost half the post offices in the country and ultimately these communities, was giving them an inevitable sentence. Ms Hogan urged the Government and An Post to implement a strategic development plan for new business and services, including banking. She argued that the Post Office network throughout the country was the largest potential banking facility in the State with no overcharging, �no hidden costs, no tax favourable deals for selected friends, simply an honest, low-cost, up-front customer based service ready and willing to be developed�.
She warned An Post the union was running out of patience in the pay talks which started more than seven years ago. She called on the company to accept the need to radically overhaul the present arrangements, which were introduced in 1907, to a pay structure which reflected the realities of running a post office in an age of information technology and rising overhead costs.
She urged the Government to consign its present pay strategy, which put nearly 60 per cent of postmasters and postmistresses well below the proposed new national minimum wage level into the dustbin. She said figures for 1998 showed almost 931 of the 1,800 post offices earned a gross income of £10,000 a year and 779 of these offices earned a maximum of £8,000 and 399 earned less than £5,000 a year.
Mr. Gregory Fitzgerald, president of the Irish Postmasters� Union, urged An Post to automate all post offices as �it was essential for their survival�. He called for post offices to be one-stop information services centres, as this would consolidate all post offices as the hub of rural communities, a position they had held for generations.
At the conference, the Minister for Public Enterprise, Ms O�Rourke, yesterday pledged the Government’s continuing commitment to the rural post office network at the conference.
She told the delegates the post office network was of �critical importance� and she announced that An Post has secured new three-year contracts with sub-post offices� major customers, the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs, the National Treasury Management Agency and RTÉ. These contracts were won in a competitive environment and would secure the company’s core business areas into the next century. New customers have been added to the bill-pay client list, MBNA international bank and Swiftcall Telecom. Overall
Bill Pay volumes were up by 8 per cent on 1996 figures. The Minister also told the conference An Post would shortly begin a £1 million advertising campaign to promote the post office network and its range of services.
A recent survey revealed 84 per cent of customers were served within two minutes and there was 85 per cent satisfaction with the attitude of counter staff. The Minister warned it was important that An Post’s mail delivery service be improved to a next day delivery of 95 per cent throughout the State.
Ms O�Rourke said one of the key challenges facing An Post was the liberalisation of the postal market. The first phase begins next year when about £14 million of its revenues will be exposed to competition. �The age of monopoly is nearing an end and we must all face up to this challenge with optimism and determination�. An Post
through its SDS Parcels Service had already shown it could become market leader in the liberalised market. This first phase of liberalisation was only beginning.
�I anticipate that further proposals in opening up markets to competition will be announced at EU level before the end of the year�, she said.
The Minister pointed out that An Post has enjoyed after-tax profits of £6.3 million in 1997 with increased letter and parcel volumes.
Thursday, 11 June 1998
Sub-postmaster challenges loss of contract
A Co Cavan sub-postmaster whose contract with An Post was terminated two years ago yesterday began a High Court action to have the decision set aside.
Mr. Seán Tierney, of Termon, Virginia, had his sub-postmaster�s contract with An Post rescinded on July 26th, 1996, following an appeal into allegations against him. These centred on alleged delays in remittances of monies in respect of telephone accounts held by two customers.
An Post says Mr. Tierney�s contract was lawfully terminated; that it was entitled to end the contract because of Mr. Tierney�s failure to comply with it; and that the irregularities were neither minor nor administrative.
Mr. Dermot Kelly SC, for Mr. Tierney, said his client operated a general grocery store alongside the post office and sometimes customers would pay for services in the post office and store by way of one cheque. Mr. Tierney offered these services as the nearest town was seven miles away.
In October 1995, he received a memorandum from Kells post office asking him for explanations about the telephone accounts of two customers. The following month, he gave a statement in which he said a broken photocopier accounted for the first delay in remitting the money, with something similar occurring in the second case.
By January 15th, 1996, he received a letter from An Post saying the standard of accounting in his sub-post office was a matter of concern. Two months later it again wrote to his client saying it was terminating his contract. He appealed this decision but at the appeal hearing no charges against him were either read out or furnished to
him. On 10 July 1996, his appeal was dismissed and he was ordered to close his sub-post office on 26 July.
Mr. Kelly said his client was entitled to be fully informed of the allegations and the evidence An Post relied upon to support the charges against him. Furthermore, the penalty imposed by An Post, the termination of his contract, was disproportionate to the matters complained of.
Cross-examined by Maurice Gaffney SC, for An Post, Mr. Tierney said it was not practical to remit monies to Kells post office on a daily basis for all telephone bills paid.
The hearing continues today.
Saturday, 22 May 1999
Post offices are seen as heart of communities
Closing rural facilities is regarded as a social, not an economic, issue in many villages. Dick Hogan reports from Cork on a battle warming up.
Close a post office in a small village, and the likelihood is that you will kill off that village. That is the message from rural communities in the south-west who fear that the threat to remote post offices could affect the very heart of non-urban Ireland.
Father Pat Griffin, parish priest of Waterville and chairman of Conserve Our Rural Post Offices, said yesterday that the situation was potentially very serious.
�I am hopeful about the outcome, but there is a threat to post offices in small rural areas if An Post loses the contract to provide social welfare services�, he said. �Supposing the banks took it up � there would be fees, there would be great inconvenience, especially for an ageing population, many of them without transport. They would
then have to go to the bank to get their pensions and they would have to find transport to the nearest big town�.
�Think about the effect this would have on the smaller villages. If you have to go to a big town to get your cheque or pension, then that’s where you’re going to do your shopping. That’s where you will have your pint and your chat. The local shops and the local pubs would suffer. In effect, you could be looking at the impoverishment
of the villages�.
�The post office is the place visited probably only once a week by local people who use it as a social occasion. It would be a great mistake to close them down. This is a social, not a financial, matter and I hope that those in power will accept this fact. Everything else is gone from the villages�.
�We have lost the Garda stations and the small banks. We must not let the post offices be closed, too�.
Mr. Anthony O�Sullivan was one of the agitators who fought to keep open the post office in the village of Kilmurry (population 200), about seven miles from Macroom. But it closed in 1991, the day after the postmistress, Mary Murphy, died.
�Ms Murphy died, and the following day they boarded it up. Now people have to make their way to Lissarda, about a mile-and a-half away, to get their post and their cheques�.
�The village has suffered as a result. There isn’t much building activity going on because young people will not move into an area without a post office. The post office is the heartbeat of a rural village. We fought the closure to the very end, but ultimately that was it, and we got no satisfaction. That was how it turned out�.
�Now the old people are finding it difficult to make alternative arrangements because many of them do not have motor cars�, he said. Mr. Neilie Lehane, the press officer for Conserve Our Rural Post Offices, said the organisation was set up in 1994, aimed at preventing the closure of the Kiskeam post office in north-west Cork, about three miles from the Cork-Kerry border.
Not only was the local campaign successful, but the organisation ensured that the post office under threat was computerised. Local communities from all over the State telephoned Mr. Lehane and his colleagues to ask how they had succeeded.
The Independent Fianna Fáil TD, Mr. Jackie Healy-Rae, made it a condition of his support for Fianna Fáil that rural post offices would be retained. This proved to be a very useful weapon in the fight against post office closures, Mr. Lehane said.
�If you close a local post office, you decimate the village and the hinterland which revolves around it. The post offices are a meeting place. That’s where you go to get your news and gossip, your pension and official forms. There’s no two ways about that�.
�Kill the post offices and the villages will die, too. The post office is the only service available in most villages. They are a wonderful asset but are being treated like a liability�.
One stark example of how a post-office closure can affect a village came from Ms Mary Arnold in Bartlemy, a community of 200 people not far from Fermoy. Its post office closed in 1991 and, hot on its heels, the local shop closed. People must now go to the next village, Rathcormac.
Tuesday, 28 March 2000
An Post says it cannot find staff for rural POs
Post offices in some small towns and villages are closing down because nobody is interested in running them.
A spokesperson for An Post said that in some instances another post office was located within a few miles of the offices concerned and, as the salary of a postmaster/postmistress reflected the level of business, running a rural post office was no longer as attractive a career for many people.
In the past number of months An Post has placed advertisements seeking applications from persons interested in taking over the running of post offices in 10 locations. More than half the positions are still vacant.
In two instances, at Ballyvourney, Co Cork, and Derrylane, Co Cavan, the post offices have closed after no applications were received despite two rounds of press advertising. Applicants are still being sought to take over post offices in Courtmacsherry, Co Cork; Buckode, Co Sligo; Killerig Cross, Co Carlow; and Creighanroe, near Dundalk.
�There is an assumption commonly made that people support their local post office, but we have found this is not the case. People often go once a week to their nearest large town and use the post office there�, said An Post’s press officer, Ms Anna McHugh.
She said there were 1,900 post offices in the Republic, 900 of which conducted just 4 per cent of all post office business. �People grow up and move away, and we are left with an ageing population in rural areas. Business in the local post office dwindles, especially where there are three or four within a few miles. There just isn’t the business there�, she said.
�We have advertised for people to run post offices in areas where the postmistress might wish to retire and we just got no applications. These are in areas where the population has dwindled�, Ms McHugh added. �We are not talking about leaving an area without a post office. One might close but there could be another one within a few
She said new post offices were continuing to open in centres of growth.
Monday, 14 August 2000
Island post office reopens
Carraig a Bhídh (the Rock of the Food), Druim na Seargan Beag (the Ridge of the Withered Grass) and Loch a� Lín (the Lake of the Flax) are some of the intriguing locations marked on a new map of Inis Toirc/Inishturk island in Co Mayo.
Not only is it new, but it is a first for Inishturk�s Tourism Association. Published with the assistance of the Department of Arts, Heritage, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, it comes with an Ordnance Survey permit and folds into a pocket-sized reference for the visitor.
The map marks out walking routes, though in no great detail, and also identifies archaeological and historical points of interest, such as the fulachta fiadh or ancient cooking places, an early Christian �hole stone� at a graveyard in the south-east, beehive huts, a promontory fort and a 19th century signal tower below Coimín an tSléibhe, or Common Mountain.
Bed-and-breakfast houses are marked, along with contact phone numbers, and there is even a symbol for the island’s public telephone near the harbour. In tandem with the map – the publication of which was marked by Mr. Frank Clarke, television broadcaster, at a function on the island last month � the tourism association has also published postcards.
An �artist’s haven� with �hilly landscape, excellent beaches and wonderful views� is how the cards describe the island, nine miles off the Mayo coast, which can be reached by regular ferry services from Roonagh Quay, near Louisburgh, Co Mayo, and from Cleggan in Co Galway.
As the map shows, the island still has its post office, in spite of An Post’s national restructuring plans. The good news is that neighbouring Clare islanders have won their battle to reopen their own post office, as shopowner Pádraig O�Malley is to take on the contract.
For the last couple of years, the population of 165 has had to make a five-mile sea journey to the mainland to post a letter, and postwoman Ann Moran has collected pensions and sorted mail herself, without being paid to do so.
For more details on its map and cards, Inishturk Tourism Association can be contacted at (098) 45520.
Monday, 21 August 2000
Plan to prevent post office closures to be published
A blueprint to prevent the closure of hundreds of rural post offices is to be published by the Government in the autumn.
The plan is likely to include a proposal that post offices take on more banking services to ensure their viability.
There are more than 1,800 post offices, but the future of hundreds are under threat. Some 900 conduct only 4 per cent of all post office business.
Civil servants are drawing up a paper on policy and funding of post office networks in other EU Member states, including Britain, for presentation to the Minister for Public Enterprise, Ms O�Rourke.
In addition, industrial relations consultant, Mr. Phil Flynn, is finalising his report on the future sustainable development of the post office network which will be presented to An Post Management and Minister O�Rourke in weeks.
It is understood the Minister is looking at a proposal in Britain for the establishment of a universal bank run by the post office. From 2003 direct payment of British benefits will be made to virtual bank accounts accessible in rural areas through the post office.
An Post met officials from the Minister’s Department last week to discuss Government policy on retention of the post office network. It is understood the Minister will be in a position to bring forward a plan for the retention of the post office network to cabinet in October.
As part of the process of drawing up policy, the cabinet informally gave approval to An Post in July to enter into talks with the banks to see how some of the services they want moved to more central locations could be transferred to post offices.
The negotiations are underway and discussions have centred on the possible development of an account aimed at the 30 per cent of the population which does not hold bank accounts.
In a highly controversial move, An Post last year proposed the ‘voluntary downgrading� of several hundred rural post offices to stem growing losses in its post offices division.
The proposal was for existing sub-post offices to become �postal agencies� opening for limited hours and offering a limited range of services. The proposal was met with anger from politicians and rural communities.
At the time the Government made it clear it did not want any more rural post offices closed. Local politicians are determined to protect any in their constituencies that are considered vulnerable.
It has also been learned that the draft heads of the Postal (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill to allow for a possible strategic alliance for An Post has been circulated to Government Departments in the last few weeks. Minister O�Rourke will bring the heads of bill to Government for approval early next month.
A draft Statutory Instrument to allow for the establishment of independent regulation for the postal sector is being prepared and is likely to be approved by the Minister by the end of September.
Friday, 6 April 2001
PO closures would �isolate� rural areas
A Co Leitrim postmaster has warned that rural communities would suffer further isolation and be left without any �focal point� if An Post were to close any more sub-offices.
Mr. Aodh Flynn of Manorhamilton was reacting to a report published this week by the Minister for Public Enterprise, Mrs. O�Rourke. It found the post office network was not viable and said An Post’s preferred option was to close 1,500 sub-offices and maintain only 400 of its 800 automated outlets.
Mr. Flynn, chairman of the Sligo-Leitrim branch of the Irish Postmasters� Union, said the report was �much gloomier� than expected. �The proposed closures have frightened everybody�, he said.
Closures on the scale suggested would leave large areas of north Leitrim without any post office. There had already been a wind-down of State services in rural communities with the closure of two- teacher schools and small Garda stations.
�The Post Office is the last government department or communication with officialdom that rural communities have left. It is a focal point within communities and if you take it away the whole function of the State would be non-existent in large areas�.
Closures would also have a disproportionate effect on rural areas. �If you live in a city there could be three within walking distance and the closure of one or two would not be a big disruption, but in the country, people would be left with no post office within 10 or 12 miles and there is no public transport�, he said.
If a decision was taken to close all but 400 offices in the State, 75 per cent of the post offices in Leitrim would close and there would be just two or three left in all of north Leitrim. A number of small sub-offices had already closed.
Mr. Flynn, who is a Fianna Fáil member of Leitrim County Council, said many of the people who ran small offices made only about £5,000 per year and this would not make a large saving for An Post.
He said the average earnings among the State’s 1,800 postmasters, 90 per cent of whom were women, was £10,000.
Postmasters had suggested expanding into other services such as motor tax and the checking of documents being returned by farmers to the Department of Agriculture, but none of these had been taken up.
Thursday, 10 May 2001
Mother has her nest egg with An Post
In an idyllic piece of countryside close to the Westmeath/Longford border residents have been urged not to use their local postbox. The reason? A bird is nesting inside.
The tiny postbox attached to a wooden pole overgrown with ivy at Rathaspic, Rathowen, has been the nesting place for a tiny bird, believed to be a yellowhammer, for the past week.
A sign posted on the mailbox bears a brief message: �Bird nesting in Letterbox. Please do not use. Many thanks. An Post�.
Mr. John Tormey, the recently retired postmaster at Rathowen post office, said the notice would come as no surprise to locals. Every year for the past decade a bird nests in the letterbox for a few weeks at this time of year. �It certainly can’t be the same bird. It must be one of her family�. he said. All around the postbox, on a country road off the N4 between Rathowen and Ballinalack, the only sounds are of birds singing in the trees.
The nest in the postbox first came to light about a decade ago when a postman on his rounds opened the box to collect mail and saw a nest full of eggs. He closed the box and reported the find to Rathowen post office which notified its head office in Mullingar. The postman was instructed to leave the nest alone until the birds had hatched
�From once the sign goes up locals come in here with their letters (into the post office) or hand them to the postman instead of using the postbox�, Mr. Tormey said. The post office is now run by his daughter Lorraine.
�Nobody has ever disturbed the bird. I have never known the nest to be vandalised. There are other postboxes in the area and it never happened in any of the others that a bird nested. She just took a fancy to this one�, he added.
However, the other postboxes have had their fair share of visitors. �We have also had nests of wasps invade postboxes on three occasions and that wasn’t as pleasant. They had to be destroyed�.
�And we have had invasions of snails in some boxes, which can be a problem. They are junkies for the gum of the stamp. In some cases they peeled off stamps to get the gum and in other cases they practically ate letters overnight or over a weekend to the extent that the address on the letter was indecipherable. We have certainly
had more numerous invasions of our letter boxes by snails than by birds�.
There are nine old-style green P&T letterboxes in the Rathowen post office catchment area. Two were shut down because they were not being used. �There is a count taken at intervals of the number of items of mail in the box and if in some areas the box is not being used it will be taken out of commission�, Mr. Tormey said.
Report to suggest merging of post offices and shops
Up to 800 unprofitable post offices should be amalgamated with retail services or established as Government services outlets, according to an official report to be published this week.
No details of costs were provided in the interdepartmental report, which was brought to Cabinet last Friday by the Minister for Public Enterprise, Ms O’Rourke. But the Government sanctioned an investment of only £10 million in An Post’s services instead of the £70 million sought by the company over a three-year period.
The Government is anxious to keep all 1,800 post offices open, even though half of them conduct only 4 per cent of the company’s business.
The Government appears determined An Post will use its reserves of £170 million for this purpose, rather than receive a large subvention from the State.
Chief executive of An Post Mr. John Hynes is to meet officials from the Department of Public Enterprise this week to discuss what has been described as “a crisis in the post office network”. He has argued that because half of An Post’s outlets are loss-making – and cannot be closed because of a Government decision – the State should
subsidise them directly.
Last year, industrial relations consultant Mr. Phil Flynn reported to Ms O’Rourke that the post office system was technically insolvent and would quickly become bankrupt without a change in the way it was funded. The “only real option” was for the State to pay a subvention, he said. The Minister for Finance, Mr. McCreevy, is understood to have resisted this.
Subsequently, Ms O’Rourke established a study group drawn from six Government Departments to devise a strategy to retain the post office network. Its report will be published within the next few days, according to reliable sources, and will urge that small post offices be amalgamated with commercial enterprises or established as Government services outlets.
Defending the decision to provide only £10 million, in spite of the findings of the Flynn report, Government sources said the company had significant reserves of £170 million which could be used to sustain the network, rather than for capital projects.
They also argued for further economies within the postal system, changes in work practices and the provision of more services. Some of the biggest losses in the postal network were being incurred in large towns and cities, they said.
The interdepartmental report recommends an expansion of existing services, and the merger of small post offices with a local shop or other commercial outlet. Where that isn’t possible, a Government services outlet should be established to include the post office. Services would vary but the report said it was important to retain
the idea of State involvement and commitment in peripheral and deprived rural areas.
In the past year, An Post has taken over bill-paying services from the banks in return for a sizeable subvention. But this new income will be insufficient to stem losses. Ms O’Rourke has urged that the range of services, particularly electronic, should be expanded. An Post resisted this on the basis it would be uneconomical and, given the imminent deregulation of the services, could only be justified on the basis of a direct Government subvention.
Tuesday, July 31, 2001
Demand for post office subvention rejected
The Government has rejected An Post’s demands to subvent its post office network, but accepted the business is no longer viable in its current form.
An Post’s chief executive, Mr. John Hynes, was informed yesterday of the Cabinet’s decision to adopt the conclusions of an Inter-Departmental working group studying the financial crisis on the network.
That group said An Post’s demand for a subvention was not a long-term solution and said monies from the company’s reserves of £167 million (€212 million) should be used in the short term to fund the network.
Mr. Hynes has described that solution as the equivalent of “putting the furniture in the fire”.
In a statement, the company said its board would meet to discuss the Government’s decision.
The Inter-Departmental group suggested changing the system used to pay post offices. It suggested offering post masters a once-off severance payment to become free agents “empowered to adopt the business to meet consumer demand”. The business will be transferred to other retailers if the post masters decline the option.
According to An Post, both its rural and urban post offices are facing steep losses this year after losing money in 2000 for the first time in many years.
About 100 post offices of the 1,900 on the network are currently closed because An Post cannot find staff to conduct the business.
The Inter-Departmental group was advised that An Post’s projections of cumulated losses of £79.2 million by 2005 were “robust” and it said a package of reforms was required.
Yet the group added that there was “an element of self-fulfilling prophecy” about the projections because the company’s strategy underlined a “lack of a long-term commercial commitment” to the full network.
Ministers also agreed to grant An Post £10 million to absorb a 12.5 per cent pay increase for postmasters, which will be backdated to the beginning of the year.
Some postmasters earn as little as £4,500, less than the minimum wage introduced by the Government.
The Inter-Departmental group’s recommendation that the post offices move from a fixed cost “retainer” model to an agency system was accepted by the Government.
This means some of the 100 offices owned by An Post will be transferred to a third party agency, which would operate the postal business in addition to other businesses.
The impact on the 1,800 subpost offices which are operated on a “retainer” basis will be starker. According to the group, An Post could develop a network of agents paid on a “fee-per-item” basis.
If it proves “impossible” to carry out the business on an agency basis, “Government service outlets” will be developed with local authorities and other public bodies.
Of the agency structure, the Inter-Departmental group said: “In the first instance it would be expected that the present post office operation would be offered the agency. If they declined then it would be offered to a shop or suitable premises in the immediate locality.”
The group said the pay-per-transaction system would increase the level of incentive to the agents. It said this was restricted by the “regressive nature of the scale payment system” because rates per transaction reduce as levels increase.
“An agency approach allows An Post to develop postal services and payment services as commercial propositions to be offered on an agency basis to a range of retailers and other business operations in rural and urban Ireland.”
P O Closures
Tony Finn informed us on 12 July 2001 that Merrion P.O., Dublin 4 (opposite St. Vincent’s Hospital) was closed on last Friday, 6 July 2001.
Donnybrook P.O., Main Street, Donnybrook, Dublin 4 which was due to close is still open at 13 July 2001.
Terenure P.O., Dublin 6W is closed (by 30 July 2001) and the premises that it used to occupy are being refurbished. The office was located at 93 Terenure Road North, Terenure, Dublin 6W.
Lower Baggot Street P.O. (that’s the one opposite Bank of Ireland Head Office), was located at 110A Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2 and it closed temporarily from 30 April 2001. This is because the existing postmistress retired on that day (as the lease was up on the premises). A window notice at the time said that the closure is
temporary pending the appointment of a new postmaster and the securing of a suitable office. Given that Upper Baggot Street P.O. and Merrion Row P.O. are close by (and Cardiff Lane is somewhat close), I would not be surprised if this office never re-opens. The office used two SIDS worded SRÁID BHAGÓID ÍOCHT. BÁC 2 / 2 / 30.4.01 / =POST
The post office at Donaghpatrick, Navan, Co Meath (MEA 033) closed on Saturday, 31 March 2001 following the retirement of the postmistress there, Asumpta O�Sullivan. The office used a steel handstamp, worded DOMHNACH PHÁDRAIG / Co NA MIDHE / 31 III / 01
The post office at Gaybrook, Mullingar, Co Westmeath (WEM 041) closed on Thursday, 31 May 2001 following the retirement of the postmistress there, Mrs Mary Nally. The office used a steel handstamp, worded BAILE RÉAMOINN / 29 V / 01
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