Making sense of the census

Number crunchers and anoraks alike rejoiced at the release of the preliminary Census 2011 figures last week. In case you’ve been hiding under a stone, the population of Ireland is now over 4.81 million, the highest figure since the Famine.

Number crunchers and anoraks alike rejoiced at the release of the preliminary Census 2011 figures last week. In case you’ve been hiding under a stone, the population of Ireland is now over 4.81 million, the highest figure since the Famine.

Interestingly this Longford has recorded one of the highest increases in population since 2006 with a 13.3 per cent increase which means that there are 5,000 more people living in the county since 2006. There are a lot of questions around this figure but the most obvious one is - where did they all come from? In the last few years, there is anecdotal evidence that a lot of immigrant workers, particularly Polish people, have left the county and while a lot of immigrants remain in the county, there aren’t 5,000 of them. Thanks to the county’s now notorious ghost estate reputation, one can’t see too many people flocking to the empty houses on building sites formerly known as ‘exclusive developments’.

In fact, the Census shows us that over 21 per cent of the houses in the county are vacant. Pity our poor neighbours in Leitrim – the stats show that nearly one third of houses in the county are vacant. So where did the people come from? It boils down to a simple mixture – people moving to the county to work; people moving home to Longford; and people making babies. There are more of us and we’re making more, apparently.

This Census shows that Ireland is in the grips of a baby boom. Since 2006, the country has been producing 73,000 babies per annum. On top of that, less or us are dying off (28,000 per annum) which leave a net ‘gain’ of people of 45,000 per annum. For years we have ignored the so-called pension timebomb but now we’ve decided to tackle the problem by producing more little people to grow up, pay tax and shore up our pensions. This truly is an Irish solution to an Irish problem.

It’s not all about babies, though. Longford recorded one of the lowest rates of natural increase in the country so one could assume that net migration has contributed to our increase in population though this is hard to analyse this properly as there aren’t any specific figures available for this yet.

But the census figures do show us that there are officially more women than men living in Ireland ( there are 981 men for every 1,000 women). But before you spray on that Linx and hit the town, lads, Longford bucks that trend too. In Longford men still outnumber women (slightly) – the stats show that there are 1,014 men for every 1,000 women in the county.

They also show that the constituency of Longford-Westmeath has nearly hit the prescribed limit of 30,000 people per TD. So the bad news is that there won’t be any less TDs in the constituency in the next election but the good news is that there probably won’t be any more of them either.

The truth is that this preliminary report throws up more questions that answers about the state of our nation – like of the 20 per cent population increase in Laois, how many of them really want to be there and how many are displaced Dubs? Like why are one-third of the houses in Co Leitrim vacant and why does Cavan have virtually the same percentage of empty housing stock as Longford but doesn’t carry the ‘ghost estate’ tag that other counties in this region ? And where are the 14 more men per thousand in Longford hiding? Find out more in the next instalment of Census 2011.