Irish Postcodes

Right now you can send a letter to Michael Regan, Scrahanaleary, West Cork, Ireland, and it’ll drop in our letter box – fairly quickly too.

Ireland is the only country in Europe that doesn’t use a postcode system, and it isn’t really a problem. The only time you might run into difficulty is on websites that insist on a code as part of your address. Then it’s make one up time – I’ve used CO1, CO2 and WC1!

Irish PostcodesBut change beckons and the Minister for Communications has announced the introduction of a national postcode system from 2011. So what format should it be?

Irish Postcodes

  • Alpha-numeric (eg: ATH 123 – Athlone)
  • The PONC system (developed by GPS Ireland)
  • IE followed by a numeric code (eg: IE 10123)
  • Derived from original placenames in Irish (as proposed by Conradh na Gaeilge)
  • Numbers, or numbers and letters unrelated to placenames in any language
  • Something new, possibly improving on systems in use in other countries

I tend to agree with Conradh na Gaeilge that we shouldn’t base the format on the english spelling of placenames, but not sure how well it would work for Irish placenames either. For example Ballydehob in Irish is Béal Átha Dá Chab (mouth of the two river fords) so would we go with BÁDC or BÁ or similar, and how complex would it be differentiating one area from another?

Personally I like the idea of IE followed by a numeric code (IE 10123), or possibly IE followed by a county prefix, followed by a numeric code, (IE CO123). Whichever way we go it would be good to have something with a national identity.

Update: 31st Jan 2010 – The Department of Communications has issued an invitation to tender for implementation of the system, due in by the end of 2011. An alphanumeric model to identify clusters of houses has been approved, and would read, for example, as D02 123 or ATH 123.

The press release also states the format will have a geo-coordinate at its centre, making it compatible with global positioning and navigation systems. What this means for individual houses, or the final format, waits to be seen – will be interesting to see how GPS coordinates are built in whilst keeping the postcode easy to remember.




Irish Postcodes — 3 Comments

  1. so you have decided what it would look like before deciding what you want it to do – i.e. will it define each individual property, will it cater for non properties, how expensive would it be to implement, what would be the cost of keeping it to date, what devices will support it and who will it benefit, will it work in Northern Ireland as well as the Republic???

    Discussion about what a PostCode would look like is pointless if you do not know what it will be expected to do and it is to assume that those who have made the effort over several years to design something in detail have taken nothing but aestethics into account !! … but maybe aspirations and keeping people happy are all are taken into account when Governement Press Releases for the last 4 years keep rolling out an example of D04 or D02 divided into 999 areas – this is very much an aspiration rather than a statement of a design based on clear requirements!!!

    This article falls into the same aspirational trap – no effort to consider actual requirements!!!

    • hi Gary,

      Wouldn't say i'm deciding what it should be other than acknowledging the fact that it looks like it's going to happen, and there's bound to be some discussion about it. I'm leaving it to the experts to come up with the final specification, but at the same time think it shouldn't pander to location ego (the DUB4 type of thing), but wouldn't do any harm to reflect the Irish connection.

      The cynic in me would also say it is partly being driven by the EU – not 100% sure but are we obliged to have a system by 2013? To start planning it now would be better than the road speed sign fiasco where Ireland left it until 3 weeks before the EU deadline (else a fine), and then rushed out and missed a good opportunity to make the roads safer.

      I guess i could list a load of things it would be useful for, but amongst the obvious it could also take into account modern geo-systems which would have additional benefits for emergency service responses, route planning, and the like.

      Ultimately ordinary people will be using the system so presumably part of the planning has to cater for public acceptance. If nothing else discussion at least gets people used to the idea, and those designing the system will be conscious of what it more likely to be widely accepted (usability, easy to remember etc), balanced with what has longevity and makes best use of technology.

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