Spare a thought for the postman. One of the unsung heroes of Irish society.
There was a time – a simpler time – when the postman would be the bringer of hand-written letters from long-distance relatives, postcards from friends sunning themselves on sandy beaches and useful information about your local community.
Now, as letters are replaced by emojis, postcards by Instagram snaps and useful local updates by hashtags, the poor postman has become something of a grim reaper of bills, glossy marketing material from companies you’ve hardly heard of and some more bills.
This morning I saw a burdened postman, weaving left and right on his rickety bike to avoid the particularly large puddles around Mount Street. His rain-drenched coat was failing him as he nobly put his own dryness at stake in favour of keeping the nation’s letters (bills) crisp and smudge-free before they found their way into our letterboxes.
Eircode: the new road to your abode
Today marks the launch of Eircode, Ireland’s brand new postcode system, designed to make the lives of our postmen – and the rest of us – a whole lot easier. The system has come in for a lot of criticism for its cost, clunky roll-out and neglect of Irish language place names.
So, are these criticisms valid or just a case of classic conservatism? We take a look at the Eircode system and what it means for you.
Why do we need a new postcode system?
Most houses and businesses in Ireland have perfectly functioning addresses, which are easily found. However, there is a significant minority – 35% in fact – that share addresses with at least one other property.
If you live in a non-unique address, you’re probably very tired of calls from taxi drivers telling you they’re outside your house, with the meter running faster than Usain Bolt, when in fact they’re pulled up around the corner at an address that’s confusingly similar to yours.
Also, if your online shopping orders regularly arrive annoyingly late because they’ve been delivered to the wrong address or to the postal depot (due to the postman giving up on finding your place), Eircode should be a welcome progression.
If you work in a building that shares a letterbox with other businesses, it means that some post intended for you has probably landed in the wrong letter box at some point.
It also means that you’re likely to have received post that wasn’t intended for you and, being the good citizen that you are, you had to go and find the person for whom it was meant and hand it over.
Non-unique addresses are also a major headache for our postmen. If they’re lucky, they can read and find the address scribbled on the letter or package they’re expect to deliver but, when they arrive at the destination, they’re potentially faced with a range of properties and letterboxes with no indication of which is the correct one.
Eircode is designed to amend these inefficienciencies.
What is an Eircode?
Your Eircode is made up of seven digits. The first three characters in the code represent your address’ ‘routing key’, which indicates your town. The other four characters are completely random and unique for each apartment, house or place of business. So, there’s no pattern whatsoever to addresses in a certain area. You can check your own seven-digit Eircode online here.
Let’s look at the most famous address in Ireland as an example; I couldn’t find Bono’s address on the system so I suppose we’ll have to settle for Áras an Uachtaráin instead.
Eircode tells me that there are three separate postal locations associated with Michael D’s gaf: the Head Gardner’s Lodge, the Phoenix Gate Lodge and the Phoenix Gate Lodge East. Each of these addresses starts with D08 (routing key), and all have unique four-digit combinations that follow, with no relationship to one another.
bonkers.ie HQ is located at Hogan Place in Dublin, alongside some other businesses. Our Eircode is…oh, wait…Eircode thinks we’re still located at our old office. So, that’s a bit of a worry. Let’s hope that no early adopters try to send us some important post using only our Eircode!
That leads me onto some of the criticism the new system has faced.
Criticisms of the Code
The thinking behind each premises having a unique code is that it will eliminate confusion when new houses are built or opened between two adjacent properties.
The Irish Fire and Emergency Service Association has claimed that this feature could “cost lives” since its drivers will no longer be able to find addresses based on memory of directions and will have to look up each unique location before reacting.
An argument against this very serious accusation is that Eircode is ‘not compulsory’. The existing postcode system will still be used for the foreseeable future and if you don’t like the sound of your Eircode address, you can simply ignore it.
The optional nature of the system, however, has left many asking why the Irish Government has chosen to spend €27million on the roll-out. It’s a cyclical argument that could leave you too dizzy to find your way home, with or without Eircode.
Apparently 50,000 addresses are wrong or completely missing due to the system’s inability to process Irish language names too. A quick glance at Twitter today will also provide you with plenty of examples of people being moved to a new town or vanishing completely from the Irish map, thanks for flaws in the system. Shannon Airport is now in Limerick, apparently.
Another concern is that the system is not (yet) compatible with Google Maps or SatNavs.
How do I get my Eircode?
Over the next two weeks, all homes and business addresses will receive a letter containing their Eircode, as well as a “handy pop-out card” with an Eircode on it, which you’re encouraged to keep in a visible place.
Let’s hope the system works well enough for our postmen to actually find the correct addresses! Twitter cynics will be salivating at the prospect of Eircodes being sent to the wrong addresses…because of Eircode’s flaws. It’d be like scene out of Inception and could cause some serious confusion. No pressure, postmen!
Get your Eircode online now
If you don’t want to wait for the wheels to turn on the Irish postal service system, you can go online now and get your Eircode here. It’s a very user-friendly site, which makes it nice and easy to find your address (if you’re on the system!).
You are only allowed fifteen searches a day, since the system is “not for commercial use”. Pity for anyone who was looking forward to seeing if their Eircode has a fancier ring to it than their flashy neighbour.
For the time being Eircodes will simply be added to the bottom of your existing address, but at some point you will be asked for your Eircode instead of your address. The Eircode website says that this will happen “over time”.
So, are the criticisms valid?
In theory, this system should help businesses, postmen and people send and receive their post with greater ease and accuracy. With Irish people particularly fond of online shopping, it will be especially useful. But there is a long way to go before things are running as they should.
For now, let's hope the teething problems are quickly addresses and in the meantime, please spare a thought for the postman, who will be out on his bike again tomorrow morning; dodging puddles, protecting letters and trying to locate Bono’s address, perpetually humming ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’.