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News : Irish Economy Last Updated: Mar 30, 2012 - 11:00 AM

Irish population grows to 4.58m, the highest in 150 years; Foreign-born at 750,000 -- up 25% since 2006
By Finfacts Team
Mar 29, 2012 - 3:22 PM

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The Irish population has continued to grow, reaching 4.58m in 2011 - - the highest in 150 years. The 2011 census results published today show the number of Irish residents who were born outside the country has grown 25% since 2006 to over 750,000. Despite emigration, the number of non-Irish nationals increased by 124,604 between 2006 and 2011, with the Polish, Indian, Romanian and Brazilian populations doubling in size.

The Central Statistics Office said the first definitive results of the 2011 census, undertaken just less than a year ago on 10th April 2011, were released today and show that Ireland’s population has continued to grow strongly since 2006, increasing by 348,404 to 4,588,252, and that the total number of non-Irish nationals has increased by 124,624 persons or 29.7% from 419,733 to 544,357.

Today’s publication “This is Ireland – Highlights from Census 2011 Part 1” looks at the overall change in the population since the last census in 2006. It also provides first results on age and marriage, households and families, as well as including results on nationality, foreign languages, the Irish language, religion and housing.

Deirdre Cullen, Senior Statistician at the CSO: “We are adopting a different publishing approach for 2011, with more interpretation and analysis of the data accompanied by illustrative presentations, thematic maps and easy to read commentary. The report aims to present a picture of Ireland as it was in April 2011, less than twelve months ago”.

The full report is accompanied by a range of interactive web tables which allow users to search and download the data using a range of criteria including geographic area.

In cooperation with the All Ireland Research Observatory (AIRO) at NUI Maynooth, summary census data is also be available for the first time in thematic maps for Electoral Districts and all Small Areas at the time of publication of this report. “This new development aims to bring census data alive in a fresh and exciting way and will be expanded on throughout our publication schedule to cover all small area data. Mapping tools are available at the national, regional and local authority level. Just follow the link from the website” explained  Cullen.

Cullen concluded “This is the first in a series of 13 reports across a range of census themes which will be published throughout 2012, each one examining a different topic in more detail. The CSO would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in Ireland who completed their census form last year and for being part of this comprehensive and very valuable picture of Ireland”.

Highlights of the report

More women than men

There were 42,854 more females than males in the State in April 2011 resulting in an overall sex ratio of 98.1 males for every 100 females. This is a reversal of the situation in 2006 when the sex ratio was 100.1.

Continued increase in numbers divorced

The number of divorced people in Ireland has increased by 150.3% since 2002, up from 35,059 to 87,770 in the most recent census. In contrast the number of people identified as separated has levelled off and stood at 116,194, up marginally from 107,263 in 2006.

Born abroad

The number of Irish residents who were born outside Ireland continues to increase and stood at 766,770 in 2011 an increase of 25% on 2006, and accounting for 17% of the population.

The groups which showed the largest increase were those already well established in Ireland. The fastest growing groups were Romanians (up 110%), Indians (up 91%), Polish (up 83%), Lithuanians (up 40%) and Latvians (up 43%).


Immigration by Irish nationals was 19,593 in the year to April 2011, of which 7,338 had previously lived in the UK, followed by Australia as the second most important country of origin (3,921) and the USA in third place with 1,688.

Immigration by foreign nationals in the year to April 2011 was 33,674. No one country of origin stands out, but rather the data shows immigrants came from a large selection of countries. The largest groups came from Poland, UK, France, Lithuania, Spain and the USA.

A multi lingual country

A question on foreign languages was asked for the first time in census 2011. The results show that over half am (514,068) Irish residents spoke a foreign language at home and that, unsurprisingly, Polish was by far the most common, followed by French, Lithuanian and German.

Increase in Irish Traveller numbers

The number of people enumerated as Irish Travellers in Census 2011 increased by 32% from 22,435 to 29,573, with all counties apart from Limerick and Waterford showing increases larger than the increase in the general population.


Almost 475,000 households in Ireland were renting their accommodation on census night 2011. This is a significant increase since Census 2006 when just over 300,000 households were renting.

Central heating

A new question on Census 2011 asked about the type of fuel used in central heating systems. Fossil fuels topped the responses with oil, natural gas and coal being used to heat 4 out of 5 Irish homes.

There was a clear urban/rural split with almost 70% of households in rural areas using oil to heat their homes while in towns and cities 52% of homes used natural gas.

Vacant houses

Total housing stock grew to almost 2m homes, of these almost 290,000 were vacant on Census night giving a vacancy rate of 14.5%. Leitrim had the highest overall vacancy rate with over 30 percent of homes vacant. Donegal was next with a vacancy rate of 29%.

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