With An Post looking to close one of their four branches across Ireland, Deputy Sean Fleming made the case for Portlaoise Mail Centre to remain open in the Dáil yesterday, Thursday June 20.
An Post currently have four mail centres across the country in Athlone, Cork, Dublin and Portlaoise.
Deputy Fleming put forward an ‘articulate’ case for Portlaoise to remain open, given its strategic position, strong customs presence and 200 jobs supplied there.
The Laois TD understands that a decision could be made on which mail centre is to close on Thursday June 27.
“I wish to raise the future of the An Post mail centre in Portlaoise,” Deputy Fleming addressed the Dáil.
“For well over a year there has been a question mark relating to the reorganisation of the mail centres around the country and I understand that there may be a board meeting of An Post on 27 June, at which a decision may be made on the future of mail centres.
“The case for Portlaoise is outstandingly strong and I ask the board to make the right decision, and to give a commitment to the future of the mail centre at the meeting next week.
“There are outstanding staff in the area and the 200 staff there have great experience and use good technology,” he said.
The Fianna Fáil TD mentioned the customs presence and dog unit in connection to drugs seizures and other illicit products.
“It is the area where all parcels come into the country, where they are processed for onward distribution.
“Because of this, there is a strong customs presence from the Revenue Commissioners in the mail centre, with sophisticated equipment to detect anything illicit coming into the country, as well as an outstanding dog unit which is regularly mentioned locally in connection with the seizure of drugs or other illicit products.
“This feature is unique to Portlaoise and exists nowhere else in the country so it makes no sense to remove it and transplant it elsewhere.
“Portlaoise is the most strategic location outside Dublin. The capital city will need a mail sorting centre because of the large volume of post but Portlaoise is within an hour and a half or so of all the regions in the southern half of the country,” he added.
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton responded to Deputy Fleming’s address, mentioning how An Post ‘must restructure its business’.
Minister Bruton said: “I appreciate the fact that Deputy Fleming has raised the issue, which I know is of acute concern to many people.
“Last week in the Dáil, the Deputy may have heard somebody else raising the case of one of the other mail sorting centres.
“The House is well aware of the journey An Post has been on. There has been a 40% fall in mail deliveries and an 8% fall in them even this year. An Post must restructure its business.
” It came close to a meltdown a few years ago and it had to undertake a major restructuring plan.
“Part of that, as the Deputy will be aware, has been a new deal with its employees, which involved a pay increase but also involved, as a part of that, that one of its mail centres would close, but that this choice would be made on the basis of what is in the best interests of the company, its employees and customers.”
Minister Bruton also said that the decision as to which mail centre should close lay with appointed board members.
“The Deputy has made an articulate case for the merits of the office in Portlaoise for which he has advocated. I am sure the company will be mindful of the case being made by public representatives in its evaluation of this decision, but it rests with the board and not with me as Minister. That is as it should be.
“People would be rightly offended if this decision was to be made by a Minister deciding between different mail sorting centres, not on the basis of what is in the best interests of that company building its employment base and its customer base but on the basis of some political calculation.
“I have faith in the board, the members of which I am my predecessors have appointed, and I believe it will make this decision in the best interests of the company, its workers and the customers it serves,” said the Minister.
Deputy Fleming confirmed that he knew the board is given responsibility for the decision, but asked that the Minister enusre that the transcrit of the debate is communicated to An Post Headquarters.
“If the Minister were to forward the transcript of this debate to An Post and ask it to consider this issue in an objective manner, I would be satisfied it would come to the right decision, which would mean keeping the mail centre in Portlaoise open into the future.
He also highlighted Portlaoise Mail Centre’s ‘strong parcel sorting and delivery function’ and it’s importance to other businesses in Laois and the surrounding areas.
“There is a strong customer presence there. It is important were there is a good viable business in regional towns that we hold on to it,” said Deputy Fleming.
Minister Bruton assured Deputy Fleming that the transcript of the debate will be passed on to An Post and again highlighted the ‘articulate case’ made.
“He has made an articulate case for Portlaoise. I know An Post is very conscious of the regional role it plays and of the importance it plays in regional development.
“This is a decision it will have make and it will do so on the basis of what is in the best interests of the company, its employees, customers and communities it serves,” Minster Bruton concluded.