The National Ambulance Service of Ireland is to start using the controversial Eircode postal system from the middle of next month.
Martin Dunne, the director of the service, said the processes involved in updating the emergency service's systems to adapt to Eircode – a seven-digit postcode given to every property in the State – was almost complete.
“We had to rebuild our systems so they would be Eircode-enabled and that has now been done,” he said.
“We are in the process of training our staff now and I would anticipate that the systems will be up and running in the middle of next month.”
The Eircode project, which is expected to cost some €38 million, has drawn regular criticism since its introduction with many describing it as not fit for purpose.
A problem highlighted by some agencies when it was launched in July was that the second part of each code has been randomly generated, which means neighbouring properties have completely unconnected codes and, critics claimed, the design was impossible to learn or predict.
Last September, Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy estimated the introduction of the postcode cost the State €38 million and concluded “it is not clear that benefits to the value projected will be achieved as a result of the implementation of Eircode”.
Minister for Communication Alex White this week said the system was starting to deliver and that agreements had been struck with companies such as Google and Satnav to recognise the Eircode systems.
He said licences were due to be “signed off on in next few weeks”.
Officials from Mr White's department are to appear before the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee today to discuss Eircode.
Delivery companies in the Republic say they have seen little interest from consumers in using Eircode and while they are in the process of incorporating Eircode numbers into their systems, they will need to be used in tandem with existing routing methods.
"We're seeing virtually no uptake from our customer base as yet," said Maeve Dwyer of delivery company DPD.
“We are working on a plan to incorporate them into our system but, because of the way they are set up, it’s likely that, even when we have them incorporated, we’ll have to continue to use our own routing system in tandem with them.”
A spokeswoman for TomTom sat nav systems, meanwhile, said the company was "currently working on incorporating Eircode postal codes into our maps and devices.
“However, we are unable to confirm an availability date at this time.”
The code is made up of an alpha-numeric code in two parts. The Routing Key comprises three characters and is the postal area governing that particular address.
The second part, a Unique Identifier, will pinpoint an address and distinguish one address from another.