Eircode Q&A: things you need to know about the new system

It’s not compulsory or before time or likely to please all but Ireland now has postcodes

We’re getting postal codes? About time, no?

Before we answer that can we just say a big hello from D02CX89. We are indeed getting a postal code system – in fact we already have it and to say it is long overdue is an understatement. In fact, the Republic has long been the only developed country on the planet without an effective means of identifying a postal address but Monday’s official roll out of the new Eircode system means we can now put some delivery distance between ourselves and the likes of Tuvalu, Djibouti, the Cook Islands and North Korea as we proudly enter the 21st Century.

How long did it take for us to get here?

The smart answer is nearly 100 years. The world’s first postal code had its debut in Ukraine in 1932 but was abandoned seven years later. Germany rolled out codes in 1941 while Argentina introduced them in 1958 and Britain followed a year later and the US in 1963. The notion that we would need a postal code system was first mooted more than 10 years ago. It was considered urgent at the time because more than a third of Irish homes and businesses have what are known as non-unique addressees. This phenomenon is most commonly found in rural areas where homes may just have a townland as an address.


How much has the system cost?

The total cost is €27 million - that works out at €16m over the first two years and a further €1.2 million per annum for the remaining eight years of the contract.

And what will we get for this outlay?

Over the next couple of weeks 2.2m homes and businesses across the State will be sent their new code in the post. People will not need to do anything and the code will automatically arrive through their letter box – which postal workers will find it easier than ever to find.

What will the Eircode look like?

It will be a seven character alpha-numeric code made up of two parts. The first part – or the Routing Key – will be made up of three characters and is the postal area governing that particular address. The second, a Unique Identifier, will pinpoint an address and distinguish one address from another.

Tell me more.

Postal districts will be given a certain staring letter so Dublin 4 will become D04 and Dublin 7 will be D07.

And Galway will be G something, right?

No. Galway City codes will start with an H. And Cork will be T. The Eircode design is not based on county boundaries and is language neutral.

Oh, right. Why does Dublin get to keep its Ds?

Well according to the Eircode people “the existing established Dublin Postal Districts 1 to 24 and 6W are being retained in the Routing Key as D01 to D24. These have been in existence for many years and the public is very familiar with them.” A cynic might suggest that the well heeled, and legally adept, denizens of the leafier Ds might have brought some pressure to bear over the last decade to ensure they got to hang onto their badges of distinction.

Will I have to change my address?

No. Addresses aren’t changing and all you need to do is add the Eircode onto the end of your existing address.

Could I replace the address and just use the Eircode when posting letters?

The official line is no and the eircode people say that An Post requires the full, correct postal address to attempt delivery of the mail item. Mind you, if you want to send us a postcard from your holidays our code again is D02CX09.

So do I have to start using it now?

No. The new system is going to be optional which means you will not have to use you new code if – for some inexplicable reason – you do not want to and you will still get your mail delivered.

Is everyone happy?

Is everyone ever happy? Problems with the new codes have already been highlighted. The biggest problem is that the second part of each code had been randomly generated and so neighbouring properties will have completely unconnected codes. Road hauliers – and more seriously - emergency services have said the random nature of it could “cost lives” as the design is impossible to learn or predict so each time the emergency services are dispatched to a location they will be starting from scratch.

Not only that but the big courier firms- the FedExes and DHLs of our world - have all announced that they have no plans to use Eircode because of its design. They claim that Eircode provides the longitude and latitude of an address but point out that the postal delivery sector has been able to access this information for more than two decades. Not only that but as many as 50,000 placements are inaccurate or completely missing because they are in the Irish language.

Is anyone happy?

The Department of Communications thinks it’s brilliant, obviously. The Director of the National Ambulance Service, Martin Dunne isn’t too hard on it either. He has said his service “is looking forward to the implementation of Eircode in Ireland as it will assist in the rapid identification of non-unique addresses”. He suggested that a “considerable number of ambulance calls are to various types of premises and the Eircode system will allow fast and accurate location of these incidents.”

Is there any chance we could see some hilarious codes like T055ER5?

Sadly, no. The chances of hilarity have been greatly reduced by Eircode’s decision to remove slang names, offensive words and abbreviations and to eliminate certain characters to avoid visual and verbal confusion.

Will I be able to use my eircode when buying online?

Maybe. The system is very new and already there have been warnings that many retailers and organisations might not yet recognise and accept it. “Over time, you will see more organisations requesting an Eircode and accepting it,” is what we are being told. .

How do I find out what my postal code is?

Well you can either wait for the news to come in the post or you can check out the Eircode website - https://finder.eircode.ie. Bear in mind there is a limit of 15 searches per day.


Lord only knows.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor