Wednesday, 18 November 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
Deputy Máire Hoctor: Táim an-bhuíoch as an deis a thug an Ceann Comhairle domsa labhairt anocht faoi thábhacht úsáid logainmeacha sa phost. I am very grateful to the Ceann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to raise this important issue on the Adjournment. I thank my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Moloney, in anticipation of his reply.
I raise the issue on behalf of a number of people, many of whom are members of the Ormond Historical Society in Nenagh who have articulated to me their concerns regarding the forthcoming introduction of postal codes nationwide. I am not sure exactly when this is to come about but the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Eamon Ryan, has spoken at length about it and I understand it will be introduced in the next couple of years.
Change comes about and we know that people fear it. This is supposedly for the better, but it is important that we take into account the rich heritage stitched into the placenames of townlands and areas, many of which find their origins in the Irish language and are loaded with historical interpretations dating back many years. While anglicised, many of them hold great treasures of heritage.
The concern is that some placenames that are derived from topography and local history might be lost in the Government’s attempt to introduce postal codes so as to keep up to speed with technology. However, a great heritage could be lost in serving that technology. I refer to the many townlands and cities where Irish derivations date back many years. For example, Letterkenny is derived from leitir, meaning hillside, lios meaning ring fort, dún meaning a strong fort and droichid meaning a bridge. My native place, the town of Nenagh, is Aonach Urmhumhan in Irish, which means the fair of Ormond. The fear is that people corresponding with such places may find themselves writing “Tipperary 24” and ignoring the townlands. In a quick swoop, names will be lost in serving the technology of the post offices’ sorting boxes.
I take this opportunity to ask for the Minister of State’s assurance that our heritage, which is a part of our townlands and areas, will be preserved for future generations and not lost through the introduction of postal codes. In Dublin city, postal codes have come to be associated with people’s financial situations. For example, Dublin 4 carries a weighted, but positive, concept of the people who live therein. I hope that, in the endeavours undertaken by the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and the Government to introduce postal codes, our heritage will not be lost and our townlands’ names or logainmneacha, as I call them, will be maintained and treasured forever.
Deputy John Moloney: I thank Deputy Hoctor for placing this matter on the Adjournment. As she has raised similar issues at our parliamentary party meetings, I take this opportunity to recognise her considerable interest in this matter. I apologise to her for the fact that the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, cannot attend this evening, but I will respond on his behalf.
A smart economy envisages economic development based on innovation and sustainability and an economy aiming for high end performance requires that the underlying infrastructure supports enterprises based on knowledge and innovation. A key element of national infrastructure is a common spatial identifier across the economy. Postcodes provide this common identifier, which will assume greater importance as we become more embedded in the digital economy.
Ireland is the only EU country that does not have such a postal code in place, but the Government has recently approved the implementation of a postcode for Ireland as recommended by the National Postcode Project Board. Comprising representatives from Departments and public and private sector organisations, the board was established to recommend the most appropriate postcode system for Ireland and to examine the costs and benefits and the implementation of postcodes.
For any developed country, a postcode system is a key piece of national infrastructure that can deliver economic and social benefits across all sectors of the economy and consultations around this project have revealed widespread support for their introduction. The recommendation is an alphanumeric, publicly available and accessible postcode. The country would be divided into approximately 200 post towns, within each of which will be groups of approximately 40 to 50 properties. The postcode will have the structure ABC 123, with the first three characters representing the post town and the second three characters representing the group of properties in which the particular building is located. The six-character code was selected for a number of reasons, including the ability of the population to remember their codes. The inclusion of a reference to the placename would also assist in this regard.
The uptake of the code by the public is central to its success. People need not be concerned about their existing addressing customs. There is nothing in the proposal that requires individuals to change their address structures. People can be assured that they can still use local placenames or townlands in addressing mail. Postcodes will just be an additional line on their existing address structure.
Postcodes are a key enabling feature of a competitive postal market and can present significant commercial opportunities for all postal service providers, including An Post. Besides enabling more efficient deliveries, postcodes can boost mailing volumes by facilitating the development of the direct mail industry, which is and will be an increasingly important source of income for operators facing competition from electronic media and declining mail volumes generally.
Furthermore, some of the more significant benefits of having a postcode in place will materialise outside of the postal and logistics sectors. Postcodes will provide an enhanced capacity and capability to use spatial data effectively and link databases with spatial elements across Government. Using spatial data more effectively can improve public policy making and help with the more effective use of resources. It is important, now more than ever, that public finances are spent in a targeted and effective manner. Postcodes will also facilitate better location-based services and the speedier deployment of emergency services. For example, it will help to eliminate confusion about addresses with similar names and thereby save time and maybe lives.
Postcodes will bring benefits to much more than just the postal sector. They can contribute to the development of a knowledge economy and the country’s overall competitiveness. As a key piece of national infrastructure, they will deliver economic and social benefits, which we will reap long into the future. At the same time, they will not impact on existing local placenames or townlands, which I hope responds to the Deputy’s concerns. Postcodes will add an extra dimension to the existing address structure.
Following on from the Government approval to implement postcodes, the officials in the Minister’s Department are working to address the next steps in this project, including the process of selecting a body to implement the proposed system. It is expected that postcodes will be assigned and in use in 2011.
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