Seanad debates

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Proposed Postcodes: Statements


5:00 pm

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Green Party)

The comedian Dara Ó Briain has a routine in which he lauds the efficiency of the Irish postal service, claiming any letter from Britain will reach its destination here if it has the name of the person and "Ireland" written after it. It would be good if that were the case and Senator Brady has made a strong case for the efficiencies in our current system. However, the fact is postcodes make a postal system more efficient and they do so in a cost efficient way. Some 117 of the 190 member countries of the Universal Postal Union have postcodes. It is right that Ireland, in common with all our European neighbours, should adopt such a system. There are concerns as to how such a system could be implemented and subsequently used and Senator Brady has highlighted several of these. However, these concerns can be overcome.

There are concerns exist regarding the possibility of including an Irish component, similar to the vehicle registration system. Since any system would be technologically or digitally read I do not believe the idea of a dual track system is likely to fly. I am encouraged by the view within the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources that it may be possible for Gaeltacht areas to have a specified code that would reflect the language ethos of such areas at least.

The efficiencies of a system of postal codes would extend not only to the better delivery of letters, parcels and other post. There are also benefits to having a system in terms of how we organise other means of communication with our citizenry. Let us consider a Member of the Oireachtas who engages in mass mailing using the Oireachtas database of their given local authority. The number of letters which return because of the wrong address often reaches hundreds. There is no more telling argument of the need for a postcode system.

Our electoral register is very much out of date and does not reflect accurately the people living in the houses in which they are recorded as living. A postal code system allied to a regularly updated electoral register would benefit from a new postal code system. Such an alphanumeric system could identify houses within a grouping of 12 and in rural areas specified households could be identified.

Some people have a difficulty with the elements of the current address system that may be lost with the introduction of postal codes. I am satisfied that the view of the Minister and the Department, to the effect that a new system would involve simply the addition of one line on each existing address, would hold true. People identify with communities, parishes and townlands and these will remain part of addresses. It is not only in rural communities that people identify strongly with townland names. I come from an urban community approximately one mile from Cork city centre. When I married, I moved to a house approximately a ten minute walk on the other side of the parish church, where the people insist they do not live in Turner's Cross. However, I still put "Turner's Cross" on my address. That people hold such identification to placenames will not change with the introduction of an alphanumeric code. This is about efficiency and having an address system that matches the technology and allows mail to be delivered quickly.

I refer to the point made regarding whether this system could fit into a single provider system or a system of postal delivery in which there are already private sector interests. That is another debate. Whether there is a single provider system or a competitive postal service one still needs a postal code system. Indeed, it is probably a prerequisite to have such a system. These are the matters we should debate to bring about the system.

There is a cost to introducing a new system. We live in a fiscal environment in which spending anything additional on anything new must be examined carefully. However, in spending this money there will be efficiencies and economies for An Post, whatever the environment in which it will work in future. We will save that expenditure and more in future. The Minister should be commended for proposing such innovation and encouraged by the House and all within the political system to ensure a system can be introduced in the quickest possible time.


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