A referendum on pairing magpies: superstition and economic policy

The Irish Independent is reporting that the:

Government is to bring in a new licence-plate system next year amid fears that a ’13’ registration number would hit car sales.

Cars registered between January and the end of June will have a ‘131’ registration. Those from July 1 to the end of the year will have ‘132’ on the plate.

The decision is based partly on fears that superstition about a ’13’ reg would affect sales and partly in response to the motor industry’s plea to spread sales more evenly across the year.

The main source for this proposed change is the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (althought it’s not on their website). This story had also appeared earlier in the year, when Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae told the Journal.ie:

“There’s people now who, we’ll say, always change their cars every two, three or four years,” Healy-Rae told TheJournal.ie.

“Take you, for instance – you might be one of these men who change their car every three years, and 2013 is your year to change.

“People like you are after going to the garages and saying they’ll wait until the next year” before replacing their cars, he added, simply because they did not want to drive cars carrying a number which is often thought to be unlucky.

Healy-Rae said car deals had already approached him to raise their concerns, which in turn had been fuelled by remarks from prospective car buyers who felt it might be bad luck to drive cars with the number 13 on them.

An internet poll (with just under 3000 votes), also on the Journal.ie showed that only 4% of people believed that the 13 number should not be used. While there is no definitive government statement on this (the main source appearing to be SIMI), there is more than a whiff of economic last chance saloon about the comments.

Having realised that superstition is the key to the economy, perhaps the government should breach it’s special advisers pay cap again to get in a top mystic, or perhaps an astrologer?

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  • A pretty harmless idea.
    Is there a Row 13 on planes? Or is that just some airlines?
    I have always thought that people in Row 12 and 14 are just as likely to perish as Row 13.

  • Mister_Joe

    Of course there is a row 13 on planes. It may just not be numbered that way. Same with some hotels where the floor numbers mysteriously jump from 12 to 14.

  • Exactly…..but Im curious if the numbers “666” or “999” are used on car plates. I recall (probably wrongly) that “MIL2000” was offered to the highest bidder (in Fermanagh???).
    As every car journey with me involves my expressing……….at great length……my distaste for people with “vanity plates”, I just wonder if some plates are deemed too offensive to be used.

  • Drumlins Rock

    I know when numbering housing developments or flats the no. 13 is rarely used, although from experience I think in protestant areas it is much less of an issue.

  • Mark

    Maybe that’s because it comes after the twelfth …

  • Mister_Joe


    What a coincidental question. I saw a pickup truck just yesterday with the number 666.

  • Mister_Joe


    My last house in Ireland (mixed area) had the number 13.

  • Mister_Joe

    Around the time I left N.I. they had
    added a third letter in front of the 2 district numbers. There was quite a bit of discussion as to whether or not to use DIA – Irish for God. Don’t know how it was decided.

  • Reader

    Drumlins Rock: I know when numbering housing developments or flats the no. 13 is rarely used, although from experience I think in protestant areas it is much less of an issue.
    I lived in “11A” in a new housing development in Bangor in 1963.
    On the licence plate business – hasn’t there already been a massive collapse in new licence plates over the last few years? There must be lots of pent up demand by now. If you really want to send a load of Euros to Japan, France and Germany in exchange for new cars, just toughen up the MOT regime (or whatever the equivalent is called down south)

  • John Ó Néill

    @Reader: that would be the NCT.

    Pandering to the car sales industry, for the sake of faux economic activity, is the most myopic policy imaginable. All the cars are imported – the cash leaves the state.

  • My apartment block here in Galway has 13 units – the last apartment is of course numbered 14. And no, it’s not mine. 😉

    There is some logic in trying to spare car salesmen an artificial drop in business – even if the cars are imported the labour is not. If it can be done at effectively no cost, then I don’t see the point in getting too worked up about it. On the other hand, it will make Dublin numberplates even harder to remember (there should be some rule about having too many identical digits in sequence).

    It does demonstrate that the enlightenment is, after 300 years, still merely a thin veneer over human society.