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Postal addresses in the Republic of Ireland

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Postal addresses in the Republic of Ireland

Ireland is one of the few countries in the world, and the only EU country, that does not have a Postal code system. As of 2012, the Irish Government is considering the introduction of an official Irish postcode in 2014.[1][2][3] As a result a number of geolocation solutions are either proposed or actively in use in the country.

Rural addresses are specified by the county, nearest post town, and the townland. Urban addresses are specified by county, city or town name, street name, house number, and apartment or flat number where relevant. A house name may be used instead of a number.

Responsibility for the current postal system rests with An Post, a semi-state body; however, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) retains the right to regulate addresses, and has disagreed with An Post over whether there is a need to introduce a postcode system, with An Post objecting to the proposal.

Dublin postal districts


In Dublin city and its suburbs, a system of postal districts was introduced in 1917 by the Royal Mail with the prefix "D", and retained after Ireland became an independent country, without the prefix. However the use of district numbers by the public did not begin until 1961,[4] when street signs displayed postal district numbers. Prior to that time, street signs only displayed the street name in Irish and English.

The Dublin system now has 22 districts.

An example of this type of address is the Lord Mayor of Dublin's address:[5]

Dublin City Council,
Lord Mayor’s Office,
Mansion House,
Dawson Street,
Dublin 2

Cork postal districts

Caroline St is in Cork 1;
Clanrickarde Estate is in Cork 2.

In Cork, there are also numbered districts, e.g.: the 'PATRICK STREET' (Sráid Phádraig) sign will display the digit '1', but these are not encountered in postal addresses. Cork has four postal districts. District 1 covers the city centre and large parts of the surrounding city. District 2, administered from the Ballinlough sorting office, covers the south-east, District 3 (from Gurranabraher) covers the north-west while District 4 (from Togher sorting office) covers the south-west. In practice, these numbers are used only internally by An Post and rarely used on mail.

Moving towards a postcode

Current handling

An Post did not introduce automated sorting machines until the 1990s. By then, the optical character recognition (OCR) systems were advanced enough to read whole addresses, as opposed to just postcodes, thereby allowing An Post to skip a generation. Consequently, mail to addresses in the rest of the state does not require any digits after the address.

Preparation for a postcode

In the light of the liberalisation of postal services and the end of An Post's monopoly, ComReg, the Communications Regulator in Ireland, began considering the introduction of postcodes. A Postcode Working Group met in early 2005 and produced a report[6] recommending the implementation of a postcode system.

On 23 May 2005, the Minister for Communications, Noel Dempsey, in a government press release[7] announced that postcodes would be introduced in Ireland by 1 January 2008. In November 2005, the National Statistics Board issued a report welcoming the decision[8] and making recommendations as to its implementation. They supported a point-based postcode system that used grid reference/GPS technology to provide a relatively clear-cut, low cost approach to allocating a postcode to an address. This avoids trying to group households together into small area clusters. It was later announced that the postcodes would include the one- or two-character county codes currently used in vehicle registration plates, making them alphanumeric,[9] with the existing Dublin system retained.[10]

In June 2007, a brief[11] to the new Minister for Communications, Eamon Ryan, stated that a memo was submitted by the Department of Communications to the Irish Government in May 2007 seeking approval for the implementation of the postcode system. It also stated that the decision arising from this submission was that the Minister would revert to Government following further analysis to quantify the benefits, which would then be followed by a public consultation process. However, in August 2007, the Minister[12] reportedly postponed the implementation of the system "indefinitely" pending additional public consultation.

On 18 October 2007 Eamonn Ryan announced at ComReg's "Postal Services in the 21st Century" conference that "[Post] codes should be introduced as a matter of priority". The introduction was stated to be subject to cabinet approval.[13] On 25 February 2008 the Irish Independent reported that the proposals were being presented to the Cabinet with a view to full national implementation before summer 2008. It stated that Eamon Ryan was finalising the proposals, which include a 6 character format postcode, giving a sample of "D04 123" where "D04" corresponds to the current Dublin 4 postal region and "123" is a specific group of buildings.[14] similar to British and Dutch postcodes, which cover groups of buildings, rather than simply suburbs or towns.

On 7 December 2008, the Sunday Business Post reported results of an independent report by PA Consulting for the Department indicating that benefits of up to €22m could be achieved for public bodies through the introduction of a postcode. The PA report indicated that postcodes had greater uses beyond the delivery of mail or simple navigation services, citing the "need for efficient database based on postcodes reducing inefficient service delivery and infrastructural planning". It said that Postcodes are considered critical for "efficient spatial planning and aiding health research, education, housing social care and employment integration". Increased efficiencies for businesses would emerge; in particular, the insurance sector stated that "it would result in annual savings of around €40 million by improving their risk management assessments."[15]

The article concluded saying that annual maintenance costs for a postcode management licence holder which would include maintaining the necessary database of buildings are estimated "at about €2.5 million" but the minister was reported as saying that "ongoing costs would be covered by income generated by the eventual licence holder".[15]

On 20 September 2009 RTÉ reported that tenders for the design and implementation of the system will be issued shortly and that the system will be, according to the Minister for Communication, comprising digits and letters and be introduced in 2011. Minister Ryan said the cost would be a fraction of the €50 million cost estimated four years previously.[16] The Communication Workers Union claimed that the new system could not be introduced by 2011, and that An Post would have to have to develop a whole new type of software to make its machinery read the new postcodes.[17] However, in a Seanad debate on 21 October 2009, the Minister reiterated that the proposed new system would be introduced by early 2011 at the latest.[18] Liz McManus, opposition spokeswoman for communications in the Labour Party, has since called for the plan to be revoked due to job losses in An Post, the projected costs and fears of junk mail.[19]

In Dail question time on 2010-01-26, Simon Coveney challenged Minister Eamon Ryan's apparent rejection of a GPS based postcode system. Eamon Ryan refuted this saying that he fully supported a postcode system that had geo-coordinates at its centre. The system chosen would depend on the tenders received. Coveney pointed out that a system that pinpointed 20–50 houses would only slightly improve what is there at present and would be of little help to an ambulance, a courier or a postman that does not know the area.

On 1 February 2010 the tender process to select consultants was announced, with a view to having the postcode system operational by the end of 2011.[20]

In April 2010, the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources published a report criticising some of the proposals listed above, recommending instead that any postcode implemented must be capable of supporting "developing technologies such as internet mapping, google maps and iphones", applying a unique identifier to each property. It suggests that the previously mentioned D04 123 model will not satisfy this requirement and may, in fact, make matters worse.[21][22][23]

On 15 April 2010 the tendering process to select a consultant to advise the Minister on the implementation of a postcode was cancelled.[24]

According to the Irish Independent a serious but unspecified technical error in the tendering documents led to the cancellation of the tender issued in February 2010.[25]

Situation as of 2013

On 29 June 2013 The Irish Times reported that the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, was to bring details to the cabinet meeting of 2 July. According to the report, a postcode operator was to be appointed by September 2013 and every householder and business was to be issued a code by July 2014.[26] Following a cabinet meeting on 8 October 2013 Rabbitte announced that a unique seven-digit would be assigned to every post-box in the state. A consortium led by Capita Ireland had been awarded the tender to develop, implement and operate the system.[27] Householders are to be notified of their codes in early 2015.[28]

Each code is to consist of seven letters and/or digits, in the format A65 B2CD. The first three digits are to represent a geographical district. The existing Dublin postal districts are to form the first three characters in the new system.[28][27]

Unofficial Postcodes

In the absence of an official postcode system various unofficial systems have emerged in recent years.

The GeoDirectory

Established by the state owned post office, An Post, and the 648555.822, 698833.088).

GO Code

The GO Code was developed by Go Code Ltd. in Dublin, 2007. It is a 7 character KHG RT76.

Loc8 Code

The Loc8 Code was developed by GPS Ireland Ltd. and field tested with RFT-41-M46.

Loc8 algorithm

The Loc8 algorithm is closed source, meaning that Loc8 codes can only be generated by visiting the myloc8ion com website, and can only be resolved to longitude and latitude by software manufactured under a licence supplied by GPS Ireland. Permission is automatically granted to communicate individual codes, but not lists of codes without prior discussion. Furthermore, the licence conditions prohibit any third party from reverse-engineering the algorithm.[38]

According to information publicly disclosed by GPS Ireland,[39] the Loc8 code consists of at least three discrete parts, each of which imparts increasing accuracy of the location.

To take the above example of the Midland Regional Hospital, 'RFT-41-M46', 'R' corresponds to an area approximately 90 km square. 'FT' defines an area approximately 3.5 km square within that area. 'M4' corresponds to an area about 120 m square within the area demarcated by 'RFT'; and the '6' is a checksum. The remaining component, '41', defines a box within the 120 m square area, with sufficient accuracy to pin-point the front door of a building. The Loc8 codes 'RFT-M46' and 'RFT' are both valid, with the caveat that they refer to progressively larger areas rather than a specific location, and that the user must understand the inherent limitations.

Furthermore, the letters H, I, O and U never appear in the code. The letter C is never used as the first letter of the code; whereas, the letter G only ever appears as a first character. The letters A and E only appear when their presence would not lead to a word being spelled. The middle two characters are always numeric. The letters 'BT' are designed to never occur at the beginning of a Loc8 code, avoiding confusion with Royal Mail postcodes for Northern Ireland, which all begin with those two letters.[40]

OpenPostcode

The OpenPostcode is an JTL97V7V).

OP grid

The Irish implementation of OpenPostcodes uses a grid extending from 55.5°N 10.75°W at its north west corner, and covering the whole of the island of Ireland and outlying islands such as Rathlin Island. The south east corner of the grid is just south of Skomer, west Wales, at 51.3°N 5.35°W.

The grid has the following format:

2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 C D
F G H J K
L M N P Q
R T V W X

Each grid square is subsequently divided into a grid of the same format, and likewise for the resulting squares, until the required precision has been attained. For each subdivision, the resulting number or letter is added onto the geocode.

According to OpenPostcode.org Ireland,[44] the expected precision is as follows:

Code length Example code Precision Suggested use
8 KFPXWT7D 1.25 m x 0.9 m Identifying infrastructure such as utility poles
7 KFPXWT7 5.98 m x 4.6 m Building entrances
6 KFPXWT 30 m x 23 m Small sites
5 KFPXW 150m x 115 m Larger sites and campuses
4 KFPX 0.75 km x 0.57 km Neighbourhoods
3 KFP 3.7 km x 2.9 km Collection of statistics on small areas
2 KF 19 km x 14 km Identifying regions
1 K 93 km x 72 km Collection of statistics on larger areas of the country

A checksum can be generated for codes of any length. Apart from helping to confirm that Irish OpenPostcodes have been entered accurately without errors such as juxtaposed letters and digits, it can be used to determine whether the code relates to Ireland, or to Hong Kong or Benin, places for which similar geocodes have also been devised, but where the checksum algorithm is slightly different.

Given that OpenPostcodes do not include the letter B, there is no possibility of confusion with Northern Ireland 'BT' postcodes.

Issues

An Post's position

An Post had previously claimed that a nationwide public postcode system was unnecessary, stating that it was "a 1960s solution to a 21st century problem",[45] that it would be expensive, and that its existing system was superior.[46] However, they now support the introduction of a national postcode, according to the Irish Times.[47][48] Courier services and direct mail companies complained that the absence of such a system put Ireland at a disadvantage compared with other European countries.[46]

An Post does use a system of three-digit sort codes, similar to the Mailsort system used by Royal Mail in the United Kingdom, for pre-sorting mail in bulk.[49] There are two levels, 'resort 152, which has 152 codes for large volumes of mail,[50] and Presort 61, which has 61 codes for smaller volumes.[51]

It corresponds to Dublin postal districts, e.g.; Dublin 1 is 101, etc., except for Dublin 10 and Dublin 20, which both have the same code 110, and Dublin 6W, which is 126. Cork has codes for four each of the delivery offices, Ballinlough (901), North City (902), Little Island (903), and South City (903).

Language issues

Conradh na Gaeilge, an organisation advocating use of the Irish language, has expressed concern over postcodes or postal abbreviations being based solely on English language place names, e.g. D for Dublin (Baile Átha Cliath in Irish) or WX for Wexford (Loch Garman in Irish) as is the case with vehicle registration plates. It has advocated that postcodes should either consist solely of numbers, as in many other bilingual countries, or be based on Irish language names instead.[52] In the UK, postal abbreviations are based on names in English, rather than Welsh, e.g. CF for Cardiff (Caerdydd), and SA for Swansea (Abertawe), or Gaelic, e.g.: HS for Outer Hebrides (Eileann Siar) and IV Inverness (Inbhir Nis).

See also

References

External links

  • ComReg – Commission for Communications Regulation
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