Postcodes could be introduced across State by year's end

Tue, Jan 4, 2011, 00:00

POSTCODES ARE likely to be introduced throughout the State by the end of the year, following Government clearance for the tender process for the project to begin.

The Cabinet agreed to the procurement system for the national postcodes at its last meeting before Christmas, Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan has confirmed. The process to award the contract for the project – with estimated costs of less than €15 million – will be completed by summer.

Mr Ryan said the introduction of postcodes will lead to significant savings and efficiencies for the State. It would deliver more comprehensive statistical and geographical data, as well as open up new revenue streams, particularly for An Post.

The Government has approved the recommendations of consultants that the postcodes should be alpha-numeric, incorporating letters and numbers.

Dublin is the only location in the State with postal codes. Ireland is the only country in the EU, or among OECD countries, that does not have a nationwide postcode system.

Mr Ryan said one of the most important features of the system would be “memorability”. In practice that means a location will be identified by its initials, in a manner roughly analogous to the vehicle registration system.

The system will also retain elements of the existing Dublin post codes. The current postcode of Dublin 7 could begin D07 and continue with numbers that pinpoint the location to a particular property. Similarly, the postcode for addresses in other areas will contain letters that readily identify the area, followed by a series of numbers that pinpoint the property. Possible permutations might include: GLY (Galway); CK (Cork); and KKY (Kilkenny).

A departmental briefing paper refers to two models – a “postal sector” model and a location model – being combined. The postal sector model would divide the country into post towns (identified by letter) and each post town into groups of approximately 40 to 50 properties (identified by number). There would be approximately 200 post towns.

The paper says the model is capable of being refined into a location-based code – in other words identifying each individual property within a post town. It says this hybrid model will provide the basis for the procurement for a national postcode system.

Several companies developing global positioning technology – notably Garmin – have devised all-Ireland digital address codes that provide precise addresses. While these codes will not provide the basis for the national system, the Department of Communications said these companies were free to tender. The department believes the availability of codes will ensure more efficient sharing of information between agencies and companies. It also says it will help the Central Statistics Office unlock more data and help emergency services.

The main issue that has divided the Cabinet relates to whether the codes should be in Irish or English. The document discloses the Minister has received representations from Irish language organisations, arguing in favour of the Irish version of the post-town name.

Mr Ryan recommended the Irish language version of post-towns should take precedence, insofar as it did not lead to difficulties in disseminating the postcode to the public because of major differences between Irish- and English-language versions of post towns, duplication or other operational difficulties. In Gaeltacht areas, the letters would refer to the Irish placename.

Mr Ryan said memorability would be important. “I think it should be something you retain in your mind, a postal code that can make sense for the area and is not just a random series of letters and numbers.”

He also said An Post, after initial reluctance, had become more receptive. “It recognises that the postal business has to change and look at new business streams and opportunities. Postal codes will help new internet business.”