Thursday, 20 June 2013
I welcome the Minister to the House.
I wish to raise the issue of post codes, a matter I raised on the Order of Business some weeks ago. I understand Ireland is one of the last remaining countries in Europe that does not have post codes in place. The process of introducing post codes was initiated in 2006 and in 2009 the then Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan, said they would be in place by 2011, but nothing has happened to date.
The reason I raise the issue is that I am looking at it from an emergency services point of view more than anything else. I am aware it has other benefits from a postal delivery point of view.
In Dublin, if an ambulance does not arrive within eight minutes, it is almost a crime. Unfortunately, in rural Ireland, if one is lucky, one will have an ambulance in 45 minutes. Recently, I saw an ambulance passing through my town and going out my road. I stayed behind it and was curious as to whether there was an emergency in the area. I noticed the ambulance pull up on two occasions and each time it was seeking directions. On both occasions, the ambulance staff ended up talking to non-national ladies who did not really understand what they were looking for. I followed the ambulance and the staff eventually found our community park where an incident had occurred. This demonstrates the kind of difficulty we have when we do not have postcodes in place. We need them in place so that emergency services can pinpoint their destination accurately. This is a particular problem late at night when there is nobody around to provide directions to the emergency services. I would appreciate a response.
I thank Senator Kelly for raising this issue. I agree entirely with him that this is an important issue, not only for the critical area he has raised in respect of the emergency services. He is also correct in that Ireland is the only country in the European Union and the OECD area that does not have postcodes.
However, the Government is strongly committed to introducing a national postcode system in Ireland. In July 2009, the then Government approved the launch of a procurement process for a national postcode, based on the report of the national postcode project board. In 2010, the Department established a postcode steering group and appointed PA Consulting to assist it in introducing and implementing a national postcode system. During 2010, the Department undertook a wide-ranging consultation on the implementation of a national postcode system, but for some reason thereafter, the subject lost urgency. More that 60 different interested parties were met as part of that process and there was a unanimous welcome for the introduction of a nationwide postcode system. There is continued strong support in the commercial sector in particular for the development of a national postcode model to drive competitiveness in the broader economy and in turn contribute to a better jobs environment. Government Departments and agencies also see the benefit of postcodes in helping them deliver services to the public, especially in these challenging economic times. Senator Kelly has given an example of one such critical service.
The procurement process for postcodes began in January 2011, with the publication of a pre-qualification questionnaire on etenders.gov.ie. for the appointment of a postcode management licence holder. Since then, intensive work has taken place on what is an extremely complex national project with many different interdependent aspects to it.
The key general areas where benefits will be derived from a national postcode system include: improved efficiency and accuracy of internal business processes as a result of improved accuracy and consistency of databases across public and private sectors; delivery of improved efficiencies with regard to logistics, including emergency service response; better planning and analysis capabilities across public and private sectors; providing a stimulus to mail volumes through improved direct marketing capabilities; enabling organisations to improve existing services and-or develop new service offerings; and facilitating improved efficiencies and quality improvements in the mails sector. It is expected that a final tender in the postcode procurement process will be issued to all qualified bidders in the weeks immediately ahead. The proposals in response to that tender will, in turn, be evaluated by the postcode evaluation team, a preferred option will be chosen and a recommendation will be made to Government in September.
The final decision to proceed with the implementation of a national postcode will, of course, be one for Government and will be based on appropriate financial, technical and operational considerations. I cannot give a precise date for when this decision will be made, but I intend that it will be no later than the third quarter of this year.