About 35 per cent of premises in Ireland had exactly the same address as another property, Minister for Communications Alex White told the Dáil.
He said the same building, in urban and rural areas, could have multiple forms of address and, unlike other countries, there was no legal form of addressing in Ireland.
“We have, therefore, adopted a unique approach, tailored to meeting our unique addressing challenges,’’ Mr White added. “We have developed a postcode system that assigns a unique identifier to each address in the State.’’
Mr White introduced the Communications Regulation (Postal Services) (Amendment) Bill 2015, paving the way for the introduction of the system. Ireland, he said, was the only country in the EU, or the OECD, without a postcode system.
“While successive governments have grappled with this issue, this Government is now in a position to bring the postcodes project to a successful conclusion,’’ he added.
He said in October 2013 the Government had approved the appointment of Capita, which employed 2,000 people in Ireland, as the postcode contractor.
It had been contracted to design, develop and implement the national postcode system, working with indigenous Irish companies to create the supporting technology for the project. The brand Eircode was approved by the Government in April 2014, he added.
Mr White said Eircodes were not compulsory, no one would have to pay for them and they would be rolled out automatically. Citizens did not need to take any specific action once an Eircode had been received through the letterbox.
He said the legislation’s primary purpose was to enshrine the highest protection within the postcode system. It also provided the clearest possible reassurance that all personal data would remain secure.
“My department has consistently taken a strong line on data protection in the design, implementation and operation of the project,’’ Mr White added.
He said his department had ongoing engagement with the Data Protection Commissioner and had completed a comprehensive privacy impact assessment.
Fianna Fáil spokesman Robert Troy said he was disappointed, as were a number of people, that the Government did not award the contract to implement the postcodes to the An Post network.
“Given that An Post delivers mail to every house with a next-day delivery rate of 98 per cent, and it had the national geographical directory which, I understand, the department has instructed it to make available to Capita in preparation for the rollout of Eircode, the failure to award An Post the contract is regrettable,’’ Mr Troy added.
Sinn Féin spokesman Michael Colreavy said there was a risk that it was all an expensive vanity project.
He said he could understand ministers, politicians, civil servants and citizens feeling embarrassed that we were the only OECD country without a postcode system.
“However, I do not believe we need such a system to extend as far as the Government has brought it with this incarnation,’’ he added.
Mr Colreavy said the cost to several Government departments to prepare their systems to use Eircode remained undisclosed.