Recently, Ireland introduced a breakthrough new update to, of all things, their postal address system.
The new address overhaul, Eircode, was in the works for several years before being formally introduced on July 13. With this landmark program, Ireland joins most developed nations in using a unified, consistent, language-neutral address identifier—throwing out the antiquated system of bafflingly-large postal codes, long street addresses, and obscure, unpronounceable Irish-language home names plastered on the front door of rural cottages.
Each address in Ireland has been assigned a sleek, lightweight new seven-character code to replace (or enhance) their old error-prone street address. No more confusing apartment numbers, no more half-addresses, no more easily-mistaken streets—just a three-character routing number and a four-character unique address.
But there isn’t all enthusiasm in Ireland for this new-fangled system. Gone may be the charming old addresses that read like lines of snarky poetry—but also gone may be the days of incorrectly-delivered mail and frustrated online shoppers unable to enter long street numbers into modern e-commerce sites.
Those with “addresses of status” will certainly be sad to lose them, and have been some of the loudest critics of this new policy. Historical precedent (and a very British obsession with fixed family status and social class) has led to a concentration of wealth and influence in certain Irish geographic areas, and generations of gerrymandering has concentrated these pockets of prosperity even farther. In Ireland, your address speaks volumes about your lot in life.
Dublin, in particular has a very class-divided post code system. Even-numbered codes are all on the wealthier south side of the city, and lower numbers are nearer the center of town. Those from Dublin 2 and 4 have a snobby, smug reputation—not entirely unearned. What will this new Eircode system mean for the wealthy elite? Will they no longer be able to write “Dublin 4” in bright, bold script on their Christmas cards? How will strangers know their top-tier status in written communication? When meeting face-to-face, their Dublin 4 accent should be a clear giveaway, but surely they cannot write in a D4 head!
This isn’t the first time affluent feathers have been ruffled by a possible change of mailing address. In 1985, the postal service redrew several of the capital’s postal boundaries to accommodate a change in their system. Residents in the western half of what was then Dublin 6 rejected their new code-to-be, claiming that their property values would fall if assigned a different code. Were their neighborhoods to become rougher, suddenly strewn with burned-out cars and graffiti? Nope, just a change in the last digit of their address.
Not shockingly, officials caved under the pressure from these (wealthy, powerful, influential) put-out neighborhood residents, giving birth to what we now know as Dublin 6W.
But everyone will have their addresses stripped away with this new system, right? Well…not quite. The wealthy Dubliners once again made sure to have their historical postcodes preserved in the new system—the three-digit routing number for Dublin matches the old codes (nearly) perfectly: Dublin 2 is now D02, etc. Does Cork get a C for their routing number? Tipperary a T? Galway a G? Nope. The rest are randomly-assigned, leaving the rest of the country to grumble about the Dubs and their preferential treatment.
One exception is the controversial new D4E—cousin to the old D6W. Dublin 4 was one of Dublin’s largest post codes, both in geographic area and in population. It was also one of the swankiest, most desirable addresses in the country. When the Eircodes were assigned, people on the eastern side of D4 were surprised to see their routing numbers appear as, “D4E,” rather than the bafflingly more desirable, “D04.” They had suffered the same fate as their 6W brethren back in 85—getting stuck with a directional qualifier on their previously-unadulterated address of status.
Not surprisingly, a growing movement is pushing back against these new codes for a variety of reasons. Some claim that there are more accurate and less expensive code systems already available, some disapprove of the lack of Irish-language integration in this supposedly language-neutral scheme.
Some simply want to continue to address their letters to, “Orla Kelly, yer wan wit de blue house in Buncrana,” and know it will arrive safe and sound.