Local businesses are reliant on the cross border postal service, with “almost half ” of respondents to a survey reporting it is “absolutely essential” to their operation.
This was expressed by Newry and Armagh SF MLA Megan Fearon in the Assembly during a motion discussing cross border postal costs and time delays.
The motion, which was passed, called on the Enterprise Minister to raise the issues of cost and time delays at the most recent North South Ministerial Council meeting.
“My constituency of Newry & Armagh knows only too well the barriers that local people and businesses face along the border,” said Ms Fearon.
“Citizens are not well served by the border in the provision of health and education and environmental protections and jobs, banking charges, business costs, mobile phone charges and the costs of postal services.
“Whilst I welcome that the Ofcom report shows high levels of satisfaction with our postal services within the North, this shouldn’t mask the problems and issues in terms of cross border postal services.
“Despite the geographical proximity of Ireland north and south, consumers face an average delivery time of between two and three working days when posting or receiving mail from the south of Ireland.”
Offering a solution, the MLA said: “In order to address this we require an integrated approach to postal services across this island. Back in 2010 Consumer Focus Post called on the main postal service providers (Royal Mail and An Post) and their respective Regulators (Postcomm and ComReg) to work together to provide a faster more consumer-driven service which reflects the demands of consumers and the importance of a more effective postal service – in developing the island economy through cross-border trade.
“Four years on we have seen little if any improvement.
“A CFP report showed 68% of businesses in north send post to the south…with 85% stating it was fairly important, almost half said it was essential to their business.
“Ofcom report shows that 47% of people are unsatisfied with the costs involved of posting a standard letter never mind larger documents or parcels. Sinn Féin have called for the introduction of a single pricing structure for mail to anywhere on the island of Ireland, which is regarded by most as perfectly reasonable.”
Her colleague Cathal Boylan MLA urged all to have a commonsense approach.
“We need to see a common sense approach to issues pertaining to the border.
“It is ridiculous that Royal Mail expects people to pay almost 90p to post a letter from Keady to Dundalk, or from Crossmaglen to Carrickmacross when the same can be sent anywhere in England, Scotland or Wales for 50p.
“Differential postal rates are being used in other areas of the EU – such as the Czech Republic & Slovakia – so we should be seeking to adopt that same kind of approach here.
“We need to work together to ensure that we provide the best climate for business development and the best services for our citizens.
“Addressing inefficiencies and the high costs of cross border post is only one aspect of this. Greater co-operation and integration makes sense and will benefit all our people. Co-operation is not a threat to any one or any identity.”