New national postcode system could give Ireland an open-data overhaul

8 Oct 2013

It’s been at least 10 years in the making, and today Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte TD, announced that he has won approval from cabinet in order to pave the way for a new national postcode system that will be live by 2015. The move will mean that every house in the State will have its own seven-digit postbox by 2015.

And, it could be a world-first, as Ireland might be on track to become the first country in the world to draw upon the open data movement. The ultimate aspiration is to have a public database of unique identifiers for each and every home in the Republic of Ireland.

Rabbitte confirmed earlier that a new consortium headed by Capita Ireland will develop, implement, and operate the new postcode system.

The new codes will aim to help emergency, postal, and other service providers – including online services such as e-commerce platforms – to locate all households.

Ireland will have a public database of unique identifiers for all properties that will assist citizens, public bodies and businesses to locate every individual household in the State, the Government claimed.

Geo-tagging Ireland by drawing upon the open-data movement

This would mean that public services such as emergency crews – think ambulances and fire engines – would be able to find people’s homes faster.

Another aim is to eliminate the current situation whereby more than 30pc of all domestic addresses are not unique.

The postcode will be a seven-character code in the format A65 B2CD, with the first three characters relating to a general area or postal district in which the address is located.

In Dublin, existing postal districts will appear as the first three characters of the new postcode.

The new system, which will be operational in Spring 2015 will bring Ireland in line with other European countries whereby postcode systems have been the norm for many decades, the Government said.

It will mean that individual apartments and offices in large developments will each have an individual code as long as specific post-boxes are provided.

“I am very glad to announce that in making the move now we have been able to use the technology and systems available today to move to a next-generation system. The Irish code will be the first in the world to be unique to each individual address,” Rabbitte said today.

All other OECD countries have postcodes, but none of these countries has a postcode which is unique to the property.

Householders, it seems, will be informed of their postcode in early 2015 and will be able to use it from then on.

In the meantime the groundwork designing the code and updating private and public sector databases to accommodate the new postcode system is set to get under-way.

Rabbitte said he would be announcing further details of the new system subject to contract shortly.

As for the reaction on the ground, Richard Cantwell is an open-data expert who makes maps at He is a GIS consultant with GAMMA and and is currently vice-president of IRLOGI – the Irish Organisation for Geographic Information.

In reaction, he said he sees this move by the Government as “hugely important”, not to mention overdue.

“Having a unique identifier for every address in the country is going to enable efficiencies and improve service planning and delivery across public and private sectors. It’s about a lot more than just delivering letters.”

Colour database image via Shutterstock

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic