Many years ago, I attempted to set up an ireland.com e-mail address. At the time, the site was being operated by The Irish Times newspaper, but today it's a tourism site.

I filled out the details page, and when I submitted the form, I got the following:

"Surname can only have the characters 0-9, a-z (lower case), @, - or _"

One of those double-take moments, as I'd never heard of anyone with a @ or _ in their surnames.

I attempted this a second time a few years later, and the result was the same.

On both occasions, I sent a note to the site admins highlighting the bug, but all I got back both times was an explanation that, due to technical restrictions, it was not possible for names to have 'special' characters in their system (like the É in Éibhear) or spaces (like in Ó hAnluain).

On the second occasion, I worked a bit harder but the correspondence stopped after I pointed out that this seemed to be a simple bug (see below), and that Éamonn de Valera – one of modern Ireland's founding figures – would have been required to change the spelling of his name to get an ireland.com e-mail address1.

So far as I am aware, this bug was never fixed. The Internet Archive seems to bear this out. The javascript function that throws up the error message I encountered is as follows:

function validString(formField,fieldLabel,required) {
  var validchars = 'abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz_.0123456789\'';

  if (required && !validRequired(formField,fieldLabel))
    result = false;

  tempstr = formField.value.toLowerCase();

  for (i=0; i<tempstr.length; i++) {
    if (validchars.indexOf(tempstr.charAt(i)) == -1) {
      alert(fieldLabel + " must be under 24 characters long can only contain a to z (lower case characters), 0 to 9, \"_\" or \".\"");
      return false;

  return true;

So far as I can tell, this is nothing more than the bug that the wrong validation (appropriate for e-mail addresses) was applied to personal and family name fields. The refusal to correct it suggests that no one wanted to go through the (probably tedious) change process for this, so the story that technical restrictions was returned.

I never did get an ireland.com e-mail address, but now that I'm not happy with having any e-mail address in a domain owned by someone else, perhaps that's not a bad thing.



Wouldn't dev@ireland.com have been cool, all the same!

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