Postmasters vow to back candidates
Postmasters have vowed to back colleagues and candidates who stand in next year's election on a save post offices card.
Amid concerns that up to 557 post offices could close by 2017 as more social welfare payments are made electronically, the Irish Postmasters' Union (IPU) used its annual conference to declare full support for a threatened political campaign.
General secretary Ned O'Hara said a number of postmasters and community activists around the country have already made approaches to get their names on ballot papers.
"They will run in their own right as Independent candidates and will now have the strength of Postmasters behind them," he said.
"These candidates will be supported by 1,100 post offices across the country who will be urging customers and communities to vote for the post office candidate over the Government parties."
One postmistress, Seona O'Fegan who has a post office in Barna, Galway has announced her interest in standing in the Galway West constituency at the conference and the IPU said it hopes to make more announcements.
"If the Government takes the necessary steps to protect the post office network, it may not be necessary for the candidates to run. However, if there is not urgent progress, candidates and the constituencies they are running in, will be announced after the summer," Mr O'Hara said.
Postmasters last month called for the Government to back its six point plan to save post offices or face a community based campaign against established politicians.
They have added to that by calling on the public to boycott electronic welfare payments in favour of collection in post offices.
IPU president Ciaran McEntee said: "To encourage people to use the post office the IPU is placing ads in national newspapers which includes a form that can be completed and given to your local postmaster to transfer method of payment to the post office. The form can also be downloaded at www.postmasters.ie. In the coming weeks, these transfer forms will available in post offices across the country."
Currently, approximately half of social protection payments are paid electronically and half at the counter, with government planning to have 97% electronic by the end of 2018.
The IPU has called on the Government to make post offices the point of contact for payments for motor tax, driving licences, rates, rents and other local authority fees, hospital bills as well as being developed into a banking service, insurance and pension brokers.
The union also said post offices employ 3,700 people and that its services deter social welfare fraud.