Ireland’s population is booming, according to new official statistics which show a surge in immigration.
The population in the 26 Counties rose to 4.13 million in April 2005, according to the latest Central Statistics Office figures. The excess of births over deaths has doubled in the past 10 years. The natural increase in the population for the year ending April 2005 was 33,500. This compared to 16,600 in the 12 months to April 1994.
The figures show an increase in population across all age categories, including a significant rise in the elderly population. In April 2005, there were 111,300 people aged 80 years and over - a 17 per cent increase over April 2000.
The proportion of foreign nationals living in the South has also risen. It is expected next year’s census will show that close to one in 10 people living in the State are foreign nationals. The growth in population of 2.2 per cent in the year to April 2005 is unrivalled in Europe. Cyprus has the next highest population growth rate in the EU, at 1.5 per cent.
CSO senior statistician Aidan Punch said the figures showed “we are facing a changing society”. In particular, he said, “we are looking at a total change in the composition of our immigrant flows”, with a fall-off in the number of Irish families returning from overseas, and a “surge” in immigration from the EU accession states.
Some 26,400 people migrated to the 26 Counties from the accession states in first 12 months of EU membership, while it is thought that another 50,000 have since returned home.
Construction continues to be the main source of employment, giving work to almost 20 per cent of the labour force.
Immigrants are being lured to Ireland by studies showing the country is one of the world’s wealthiest. Last week a UN report, the 2005 Human Development Report, found Irish people to be the second wealthiest in the world, with a GDP per head of $37,738, ahead of US and Japan.
However, the report also found Ireland was one of the most unequal, with the third-highest level of poverty in 18 industrialised countries surveyed.
The school was mooted amid major demographic change in the area, with a large number of Protestants among a wave of Dubliners moving to the area from the city.
St Peter’s National School in Dunboyne has been in operation for a year, catering for children from parishes between Enfield and Ashbourne.
A member of the school’s board of management, said that while the school had a Protestant ethos, all children were welcome to attend.