Post Coding Ireland

I hear the birds in the South of Ireland are chattering Post Codes once more. Let their music not fade into oblivion like a one hit wonder, but rise with a great crescendo to completion of the task. Postcodes are very handy. I know because I have one. Way up here in the cold and often forgotten part of the UK, are many towns and villages with a prefix of ‘Bally’. I live in one of them. Back in the days before we had post codes our mail took the tourist and scenic route via Ballycastle. Now with a Post code such detours are avoided.

Nowadays all my outgoing mail has a return address of my last name, house number and post code. I have in fact received Christmas Cards from the United States of America addressed to that return address. If for any reason I need to phone my bank or any utility company they ask first for my postcode and then the house number and finally ask me to verify my name. When travelling my luggage tags have only this return address.

Northern Ireland was the last part of the UK to be postcoded with all postcodes here beginning BT, a mnemonic of the capital city’s name. While Belfast was already divided into postal districts, rural areas known as townlands posed an additional problem, as (at the time) many roads were not named, and houses were not numbered. Consequently, many people living in such areas shared the same postal address, which is still the custom in the Republic of Ireland. Today the majority of roads in Northern Ireland are named with the odd exceptions in Co Fermanagh and most houses (even in rural areas) are allocated a number. Those that are not allocated numbers can be uniquely identified by a house name. An example is Bushmills, which begins with BT57.

The format of UK postcodes is generally:

A9 9AA

A99 9AA



AA99 9AA


where A signifies a letter and 9 a digit. It is a hierarchical system, working from left to right — the first letter or pair of letters represents the area, the following digit or digits represent the district within that area, and so on. Each postcode generally represents a street, part of a street, or a single premises. This feature makes the postcode useful to route planning software.

The part of the code before the space is the outward code or out code used to direct mail from one sorting office to the destination sorting office, while the part after the space is the inward code or in code used to sort the mail into individual delivery rounds. The outward code can be split further into the area part (letters identifying one of 124 postal areas) and the district part (usually numbers); similarly, the inward code is split into the sector part (number) and the unit part (letters). Each postcode identifies the address to within 100 properties (with an average of 15 properties per postcode), although a large business may have a single code

The population in the Republic of Ireland are well prepared for this type of system since vehicle registration has worked on a similar vein for several years. Surely incorporating the latter system would make the providing of Postal areas and districts an easier task.

What do you think?


44 thoughts on “Post Coding Ireland

  1. When my daughter moved to Dublin we thought it very strange that there was no post code. It can make life very difficult sometimes if you are wanting to send a gift via internet as the post (zip) code is often compulsory. I think they should join the rest of us and introduce a post code.

  2. The main group pushing for post codes are the direct marketers – so from that point of view I’d prefer to leave it the way it is.

    I was surprised when I sent a postcard to my brother in the US once that he didn’t get it. I had all the address except for the postcode. He told me the post office there won’t look at a letter if there’s no code on it.

    I know people that have got postcards in Ireland that sent to made up addresses e.g. Mary Kelly, The Flat Over the Shop Across from the church, Ballyhooley, Co. Kerry. I guess that sort of care from the postman would go too.

    Of course An Post already have their own codes for every house in Ireland. They are just used internally. If post codes are introduced, there’ll be a whole new set of numbers (against what An Post want), and An Post will have to deal with both codes.

    An interesting thing about the UK codes – if you get over 7 (it may be more) items of post a day (on average) then you get your own postcode.

  3. Chris ~ Compulsory zip codes for internet shopping from Europe are a nuisance. I use a series of zeros.

    5h4mr0(k ~ I also had a ‘Mary Kelly’ incident a few years ago. I wanted to write to someone who had moved counties. I was given the address third hand.. Months later I had a reply with my envelope enclosed as proof of delivery and the effort that An Post took to deliver it. It was covered in date-stamps and several ‘Try xxx’! The address that I was given was in fact the house name and county. Well done An Post.

    If An Post already have codes for every house in the land already, why not use or modify them. Problem solved!

  4. I had a rant a while back about couriers not being able to find my house. Or more precisely, not trying to and pretending the lack of a postcode system is their problem.

    In comments, Gary Delaney plugged his company’s (all Ireland) PON Code* system. It is being trialled right now. Of course, he would be hoping the government would buy into his idea as it can be used, though it is not intended solely for, postcodes.

    *PON Code = Ponc = Point, dot or spot in Irish.

    While his system isn’t intuitive there are aspects I like such as its extensibility e.g. A standard code denoting an apartment block could be extended to include floor number and flat number.

    The webpage is an arduous read unless you are really into this sort of thing, but near the top he suggests JG8 1759 for the Guinness brewery. I like that!

    Anyway, to answer you question, Grannymar: Yes, yes, yes! Bring it on!

  5. An Post do use them. You’ll see them in the form of a little orange bar code on the back of letters.

    The problem is that the government are under pressure from the direct mailers to introduce a post code. An the government, in their wisdom, have been ignoring the advice of An Post (to reuse their one) and instead are going to have a different one. Shur what would they know about delivering the mail?

    These are the same people that can’t decide from one week to the next what the name of Dingle is. If they can’t decide on the name of a town, what hope is there for them coming up with post codes that work.

  6. Primal ~ that was an excellent rant you did, and I love the suggestion of JG8 1759 for the Guinness brewery.
    Now I wonder…. GM 1 sounds good for me! 😉

    5h4mr0(k ~ They are needed for automatic sorting machines.

    ChrisD ~ well some people are. Read Primal’s rant.

  7. I agree Grannymar, it would be a great implementation. I don’t agree with the money being spent on implementing the system, especially if An Post have one already. Committees left right and centre. If An Post have one, which obviously works, because I find them incredibly reliable, then they should implement that and save a whole lot of money in the process.

    As Chris said, it would be a relief for those of us outside Dublin with no postcode, as we usually have to make something up when ordering online, as it’s generally a compulsory field. Even Irish websites are requiring it, which drives me insane! *RANT RANT RANT* 😀

  8. I once sent a letter to ‘the house on hte left in the estate behind the harbour bar’ and it got there!

    I agree about avoiding the marketers…

  9. @ Granny, re: Primal’s rant:

    True, the system could be better than it is now. I hate having to fill out required postal/zip fields as well…

  10. Grannymar,

    We have ZIP codes here in the U.S. and they generally work just fine. They really do pinpoint a neighborhood…

    Now about the postal WORKERS ,that’s another story.

    I heard about a guy who got hired by the US Postal Service and they tested him to see how many letters he could sort in an hour. The average was 500 and he sorted more than 2,000 .

    The postmaster was astonished and said to the guy,” That was fantastic, you sorted more than 4 times what the average postal worker can sort. You are terrific. The guy looked at the postmaster and said,” Wait till you see how many I can sort when I learn to read.”…..

  11. Debs ~ rant away, that is the whole point of this post. 😀

    Jo ~ the marketers will find you no matter if you have post codes or not. They use directorys, electoral registers and some companies, including Banks, sell our information on. My phone number is unlisted and I am not on the edited published electoral list, yet I still get rubbish through the door addressed to the Householder!

    ChrisD ~ see Primal’s latest comment.

    Nancy ~ That sounds like our sorting office. They are always short staffed and hire agency staff by the bus full, usually recent arrivals from our new European Partners who have little or no english!

    Primal ~ Thanks.

  12. Interesting post Grannymar. Here in the Netherlands it doesn’t matter what institution you phone – national or commercial etc.. – the first and only identification they ask for is your postcode and house number. Names are obsolete(! How I would love to get post addressed to “The elderly British Lady who emmigrated to the Neths 35 years ago and is living next to the park with the duckpond and the white duck with the gammy leg”….!
    Ah well, at least we’ve all got names on here…. sort of!!

  13. Grannymar

    Another good reason for the introduction of post codes, is for use by the emergency services on Sat Nav.

    Your NI ambulance/fire brigade/police service can find you much quicker simply because you have a post code.

    Meanwhile, we in the South have to stand out on the road and wave our arms frantically!

    btw Once when I was being taken to hospital by Nee Naw, we had to stop-off en route for petrol 🙄 The fumes almost finished me off!

    At least we were let through the toll bridge for free!

  14. Geri Atric ~ I love your address! 😆

    Steph ~ I hope the Nee Naws didn’t ask you to pay for the juice! 🙄

  15. Great benefits, like Geri Atric said, here in Holland you ARE a postcode with a house number, the rest is irrelevant.

    I’d love to see the poor sap who has to inform some of my old North Cork wilderness neighbours that they are in a different postcode to Paddy over the field!

  16. Xbox4NappyRash

    I was teasing about your handle being your postcode 😉

  17. Oh right sorry, right over my head, you’re quicker than me this evening.

    Although, its not far off, the postcodes here break right down to street level, or even more per street depending.

    A letter, or navigation system will arrive at my door once they know the code 9999XX and the house number. Remarkable actually.

  18. Xbox

    My postcode covers 10 houses.

    House no & postcode will find me from across the globe.

  19. Gary

    You are very welcome. Did you come by postcode? 😆

    GNY 00US! I love it! 😀

  20. As far as i can remember we’ve always had postcodes but mail will be delivered without one as well by a plethora of yellow clad posties on their little red bikes 90 cc bikes. In Rural areas, generally properties will have a number of post boxes (mail isn’t pushed through a slot in the door here, it’s put in your driveway mail box) at the end of a long driveway or if you’re really way out, it’s delivered by plane. Some properties are so big, they are their own postcode! Fortunately, we’re too long a street for the junk mailers! Ours is generally delivered by hand not by the post office. I agree with the internet thing, it’s impossible to order anything without a post code, dunno how you’ve survived without them for so long!

  21. On final point (that’s a pun on PONC, by the way) on this then I’m hitting the leaba:

    Compulsory/required Zip/Postalcodes on websites is poor web design. Pure and simple. The Irish Republic is not the only state without postcodes.

    Most of the forms you see on websites were designed with the US in mind. Or designed in the US by designers who knew little of the rest of the world.

    The code templates for these forms have been copied thousands upon thousands of times, even by Irish web designers who should know better, are plain lazy or cowboys.

    A well coded form for international use should take all the world’s addressing systems into account. I’m sure you’ve used some that have you select the country first. If you select the US, then your are given a list of states. If you had selected Ireland, you would get a list of counties.

  22. Baino ~ we are going the way of outdoor Mail boxes. All new houses seem to have them.

    Primal ~ I have used websites where you get to select the county. It makes life easier.

  23. Interesting…
    there’s apart of me screams keep it the way it is it won’t improve dleiveriies and another part says post codes can be a boon .

    I then think of the stories that I used to hear of letters being posted at 10am and delivered by noon in big cities ands I wonder where we went wrong….

    I was at the Antiquarian Book Fair on Friday and I swear I saw a dealer with his contact details tatooed on his bald head…didn’t see a post code though…I’m sure it would have been cheaper to have just his post code and less painful.

    Love the Guiness brewery idea. Over here they’ve stopped bottle aging original.

  24. Gary, my head is still spinning from the circular logic of your “invention”. Let’s see, if I go to google maps and find my latitude/longitude I can convert this to a PON which I can then type into a SatNav which will convert it back to a latitude/longitude.

    If you don’t know what a postcode system is, please don’t claim to have invented one for Ireland. All you have is a shorthand for writing Lat/Longs, it contributes absolutely nothing.

  25. Pat,

    seems to me that you are a better man than I!
    I am a professional navigator and have been handling Lat&Longs now for 30 years (as well as Grid References) – if you asked me the Lat & Long of my house because you wanted to get there, I would not be able to remember it because it would have a least 16 characters.

    Even if I could, then I would have to further explain whether it was Decimal Degrees, Degrees Minutes and Decimals of Minutes or Degrees, Minutes, Seconds and decimals of seconds and of course wheter to use “N” and “W” ot just plus and minus.

    However, If you asked me for some definite reference which was easy to remember, only in one format and only seven characters long;- then a 7 seven character code like the PON Code would be the solution.

    Otherwise, how come we are not already giving directions in coordinates…………. I

    Definition of a Post Code? Always presumed it was a quick reference for an address – if you believe a Lat/long is a quick reference, then there is a lot of Air and Sea navigators that woul need convincing of your logic…

    If this does not make sense, then I bow to your superior knowledge…


  26. Gary,
    If your website was called then I wouldn’t have as many objections. While a postcode can be used as a quick reference for a location, its primary purpose is administrative. While the driving force behind postcode introduction is normally postal delivery, postcoded data allow efficient planning of Government services (education, healthcare, etc. ) Private industry also benefits from postal discounts for postcoded data, spatial analysis of their customers and segmentation when compared to Census information which allows potential site location analysis.

    You cannot introduce a postcode system without reference to the underlying addresses in Ireland, thus you must reference it to GeoDirectory. The biggest issue is data protection, there must exist a certainty that individuals cannot be identified by their postcode. Your proposal gives everyone a separate postcode, so cross matched datasets could be used by direct marketing companies to build a profile of individuals. People also need to understand and appreciate the boundaries of a postcode for it to be remembered by the community; roads/rivers/etc. must be part of boundaries. You can’t implement a grid based system that ignores this and cuts through the middle of a house.

    I’ve been involved in the GIS/Address Management industry for 18 years (no connection with direct mail) and would warmly welcome a postcode system in Ireland. Experience from other countries is that it takes at least 10 years for adoption of postcode systems by the general public with the full backing of the National Postal Service. Yours simply has no chance of success.

    I agree with your assessment of the issues with providing/remembering/etc. lat/longs. I haven’t bothered to analyse your PON method but assume it is adequate. If companies are happy to invest in their IT systems to accomodate it as a short-hand for Lat/Longs then I don’t have a problem. But it is not, and never will be, a postcode system.

    In light of my response you may update the following claim on your web site.

    “There is no-one living in or visiting Ireland who will not benefit from this new system.”


  27. Pat,

    we dealt with this on e-mail last night- no need to bore people with technical argument – bottom line is that we have two different perspectives summarised as follows:

    You want to sell walls to builders not bricks.

    I prefer to work with the bricks and let others build the walls!!

    Glad to have arguments regarding technical justifications the needs of the GIS community on e-mail but do not think this is the place.

    Our different opinions on this will not be resolved here.

    Final word – there are others who support your argument but as yet no-one has come up with a Post Code to suit it – why?
    Politics, An Post and the need to over-riding need to take “Post” out of “Post Code” and realise that it has so many other dynamic uses in the modern world as well as, and more significant than, delivering Mail!.

    PON Codes as bricks satisfy Mail, Logistics and GIS & GPS – all requirements covered!



  28. Gary,
    I agree that this and the numerous other blogs where you posted your advertisement for PON codes may not be the correct forum, however I am choosing to refute your suggestions of having solved the Irish Postcode problem wherever I find them.

    I believe that your your narrow experience from the GPS world is the reason for your limited understanding of what a postcode is, and I quote “Always presumed it was a quick reference for an address”. A proper postcode system will ALSO function for your purposes, however your system will ONLY function for your purposes. What then? Multiple postcode systems?

    I could launch a site in a couple of days with an easier to use interface and an alternative method of displaying shorthand lat/long based on the car license plate county code and postal town notation e.g. MOC1 811
    where MO = Mayo
    C = Town (allows 26 posttowns per county)
    1 = District (1-4 in Town and 5-9 in surrounding townlands).
    811 = Allows 999 postcodes with this format.

    It took me all of 5 seconds to think up, its limitations and deficiencies are blindingly obvious and it would be just as pointless as what you have done.

    Like it or not a Postcode system can only be introduced by An Post. If this were Dragons Den we would have reached the point where they are pleading with you not to waste any more of your time or money on this idea. I note from the email advertisement you sent me on Thursday that your idea is “Patent Pending”. Seriously, don’t do it Gary, don’t waste the childrens inheritance on persuing this.


  29. Pat,

    ok enough yes you have your opinion and I have mine – that’s normal – you’ve expressed yours and I have expressed mine – and both of us are entitled to the opinions we hold – So let’s not keep going around in circles on this!

    p Al, the Post Code you suggest above is very similar to one of the recommendations by the Government consultants in 2006 – you are right – not a good idea so perhaps you should use your energies making sure that that does not happen!!

    But your “makey up” code is not in any way related to Lat/Long – or is that just a mistake on your part?

    PON Codes are ITM coordinates expressed in a different way and therefore are also mathematically related to Lat/Long and all are WGS84 based.

    Anyway you know all this already – I will not be getting into more discussion on this with you here –
    I am too busy serving the substantial logistics community who are trying to get their hands on a PONC!

    Finally – I have not personally insulted you – so please refrain from referring to my 30 years in navigation and surveying and contributing to GIS in many significant ways for more than 10 years as “narrow” – lets keep comments respectful and on the subject in hand!



  30. Right lads,

    I think this is getting a little like a slagging match… a bit deep for Grannymar’s house I am going to close the comments here Ok?

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