Eircode launched on 13th July, 2015
Ireland’s new postcode system is named Eircode. You can look up an Eircode here: https://finder.eircode.ie
The system is being developed by Capita, a British company that won a contract from the state for this work.
Unlike postcodes systems in other countries – and every other country in the EU already has postcodes – Irish postcodes will be unique to each household. This contrasts with, for example, the British system where a postcode is shared by a group of houses near to each other.
The link below takes you to the draft technical specification for the Eircode address database (ECAD) which will be used by anyone who wishes to develop a system that works with the new postcodes to geographically locate houses and businesses in Ireland.
This document includes a data model and field specifications.
Eircode Address File
Eircode also offers a simpler “address file” – a list of addresses with their Eircodes but does not include the latitude and longitude co-ordinates to locate them on a map. The latest technical specification for the Eircode Address File (ECAF) is published here:
When will Eircodes be issued?
The launch date to issue Eircodes has been delayed three times. It started out at Spring 2015, but the Irish Times now reports that it will be July 2015 when Eircodes are sent to all houses and businesses. They won’t be compulsory – you will still be able to address a letter without knowing the recipient’s code. However, looking across the water, letters are not delivered in the UK or US without a postcode or a ZIP code, so I expect that An Post will refuse delivery without an Eircode at some point in the future.
Your code will be in this format:
The first three character are the “routing key” which is a code for the area you live in. The final four characters are chosen at random and are unique to your address.
I have compiled a list of all 139 eircode routing keys.
What is the point of all this?
There are problems with Irish addresses. Many people live on rural roads with no name in unnumbered houses. Their address is a townland and a nearby town and is shared with other dwellings. The postman uses local knowledge to guess which house gets which letter, based on familiarity with the names on the envelopes.
Urban addresses aren’t much better. District names are vague and changeable, while residents name and rename their houses at will.
The result is that it’s very hard to compete with An Post’s distributed local knowledge. Post is often delayed and delivery is inefficient. Satnav is hit and miss in Ireland.
Is this a good scheme?
Eircode has generated some controversy. A website like this summarises most of the arguments against Eircode.
Some people would prefer a system that encodes the latitude and longitude of anywhere in Ireland into an alphanumeric code. In this way you don’t need to subscribe to a database of households from Eirocde/Capita. Instead your phone would just translate the string into co-ordinates on your mapping programme.
A major drawback of a co-ordinate scheme is that an address could be represented by multiple codes, while one code could refer to multiple households. For example, an apartment building could have apartments on different floors with the same co-ordinates. Conversely, a single property could be encoded with different codes depending on where the co-ordinates were measured within the curtilage of the property.
For some purposes, having a code that uniquely identifies a household is valuable. A lot of taxes are based around households, so the Revenue will be very interested. For example, Revenue could easily find all properties that are being rented out where the owner is also claiming owner occupier relief. They already do this but matching address data is a very laborious and inaccurate process without codes. A co-ordinate system would be of limited value in this case as the many-to-many mapping would have to be individually unpicked.
Individual postcodes in the UK are each shared between about 12 households. So when you give your postcode to somebody, they don’t know exactly where you live, just which end of the street. The Irish system tells people your exact address. Once you state your Eircode, that’s the same as stating your full address.
Locations that don’t have letterboxes
The Eircode database will store the co-ordinates and details of every home and business in the country to which you can send a letter. So far, so good, but what if you want a code to tell people about a location that isn’t a home or a business such as telling the emergency services the location of a car crash or calling a taxi to pick you up on a rural road?
Eircode is no good for this and some agreed way of sending co-ordinates between phones will be needed.
Work to be done
Every Irish company will need to change its computer systems to store Eircodes and they may choose to try to find Eircodes for all their existing customers. There may be efficiency gains in future but there is a huge amount of work to be done yet.
Eircode launch date has been delayed from Spring until June 2015. The government is rushing through new legislation to allay data protection concerns. On RTE’s ‘Today’ show, on 23rd April, Liam Duggan, CEO of Eircode, stated that Eircodes would be delivered to all houses over a three week period in June and before the first week of July.
Eircode pricing has been published. This is a complicated scheme offering per-user or per-transaction options. There are two pricing levels depending on whether you need the full geocoded map data (latitude/longitude) or just addresses plus eircodes.
Pricing only applies to business users. For anyone who just wants to find an address from an Eircode, you will just type the Eircode into Google Maps or into your satnav and it will apeear on the map. If you want to find someone’s Eircode and you have their address, there will be a web page that allows you to lookup a limited number of Eircodes.