‘An Post should have the opportunity to be the USP’ Deputy Joe O’Reilly speaks on the Report Stage of the Postal Services Bill 2010

19th July 2011

I had the privilege of speaking to this legislation on Second Stage in the Seanad and Dáil. I do not propose to repeat the Second Stage arguments except to say that I am a firm admirer and I have a firm realisation of the wonderful, socially constructive role An Post has played in our society throughout the years. I am acutely aware of the universal service An Post has provided, what this has meant to people in isolated places and the role of individual personnel in An Post in reaching out to people in difficult situations, often serving as their only human contact. I made these points on Second Stage and I do not propose to regurgitate them unnecessarily save to state that they merit re-emphasis.

On Second Stage in the Seanad and Dáil I made the point that An Post should have the opportunity to be the universal service provider for the longest possible time and that the time proposed in the original legislation should be extended. I continue to firmly hold this view. The Minister is providing for the reasonable proposition to extend the period to 12 years. Initially, the period is seven years and there is a prerogative to extend it to 12 years. After 12 years, ComReg can make further changes if it sees fit and if several of the prevailing conditions that apply now, including the increase in electronic mail, the new emphasis and the new forces bearing in on An Post, continue.

The debate is worthwhile and the arguments made on the Opposition benches which extoll the virtue of the services provided by An Post are valid. They are also valid because they lauded the work of individual An Post people throughout the county and the social service provided by them. They also highlighted the right of people in isolated places to the same postal service as anyone in a built-up area in the middle of our cities and that argument is altogether valid. However, where the Opposition become disingenuous, unreasonable and begin to engage in a ridiculous form of debate is to state that to allow An Post 12 years to provide the universal service is less than reasonable. It is perfectly reasonable to hold that the possibility of extending the period still exists. The Minister has come on a great journey to improve the original legislation and it is right that he has so done because we should put nothing before the provision of the universal service. No one is in a better position to provide it than An Post.

The Minister is correct to identify electronic media and the new acceptance of same coupled with the recession as great and significant challenges to An Post. The Minister is also correct to establish that we have a legal obligation to accept the EU directive. These things have a relevance to what we are doing today. Given the legal obligation to impose the directive and the external threat to the work of An Post, the 12 year timescale for An Post to be the universal provider is reasonable, as is the potential for the extension of this period. It is a reasonable recognition of the role of An Post and of the difficulties under which it labours.

This is a worthwhile debate and we cannot over-estimate the importance of the service to so many people in the country. We should never fail to recognise the absolute right of everyone in the country to receive mail on the same basis as people in a different part of the country, no matter where one lives and regardless of one’s personal circumstances.

Senator Joe O'Reilly representing Cavan & Monaghan 2010. | An ExSite website