Population to reach 6.5 million over next 50 years
Ireland's population is set to explode in the next half century, hitting 6.5 million by 2060.
According to the EU's statistics agency, the number of Irish citizens will grow by almost half from a 2010 figure of 4.4 million.
The 46pc increase, the largest in the 27-member bloc, will make Ireland the EU's 16th most populous country.
The statistics-based research does not immediately explain the reason for the large increase.
The country is in 20th place, but by 2060 it will have overtaken Bulgaria, Denmark, Slovakia and Finland.
In fact, Bulgaria will see its population shrink by 27pc from 7.5 million in 2010 to 5.5 million in 2060; while Denmark, Slovakia and Finland will see much slower growth than Ireland over the next 50 years.
Irish citizens already number more than Estonians, Cypriots, Latvians, Lithuanians, Luxembourgers, Maltese and Slovenians.
By 2060, the UK will have replaced Germany as the EU's most populous country, with the number of citizens swelling from 62 million to 78 million.
Germany will fall into third place behind France as its population shrinks from 81 million to 66 million.
Overall, the EU population will grow from 501 million in 2010 to 526 million in 2060.
The numbers mask the fact that the percentage of older people in the population -- those aged 65 or over -- is set to almost double from 17pc to 29pc by 2060, spelling trouble for creaking pension systems and strapped public purses.
Although Ireland's population will remain the youngest in the EU, the percentage of over-65s is to double from 11pc to 22pc over the next 50 years.
The Department of Finance estimates that the country will be spending 11.3pc of gross domestic product on pensions by 2060, up from 5.2pc in 2007.
The total cost of ageing, including healthcare, will be higher at 26.1pc of GDP in 2060, up from 17.1pc in 2007.
The Eurostat projections are based on birth, mortality and net migration trends over the last 50 years.
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) latest estimates show that the number of migrants into Ireland dropped sharply -- by around half -- last year, while the number of Irish people leaving the country rose by 10,000 on the year before. The CSO also shows that the birth rate was almost three times the mortality rate in Ireland last year.