Baby boom hits Ireland as we top the European birth rate
Ireland is in the midst of a full-blown population boom boasting the EU's top birth rate and second-lowest death rate.
There was 14.4 babies born per 1,000 residents in the State last year, easily eclipsing the EU average of 10.1.
In stark contrast, Ireland also recorded one of Europe's lowest death rates at 6.4pc per 1,000 residents - some distance behind the EU average of 9.7pc.
The new figures, released by the EU's statistical office Eurostat, now puts Ireland's population at 4.6 million.
Given the nation's birth and death rates, it means Ireland saw a natural change in population of +8.1pc in 2014.
Housing and childcare sectors are already struggling under the weight of young families, while at the other end of the scale the low death rate means the pensions bill is spiralling.
Experts warned that childcare in the country was not fit for purpose, given the nation's growing young population.
Early Childhood Ireland CEO Teresa Heeney has said that while Ireland's high birth rate is the "envy of our European neighbours", she warned that the sector is facing a crisis.
"Our current level spending in the sector is just 0.2pc of GDP. This is far short of where we need to be and we must move towards 0.7pc which is closer to the European average, and ultimately to 1pc," she said.
"This Government must make choices in the next Budget which will have a long- lasting impact on Irish children, families and early childhood educators.
"The lack of a clear plan today is leading to duplication and poor sustainability in a childcare sector that is overstretched and not invested in properly."
Fianna Fáil spokesman for children Robert Troy has also expressed concerns in relation to Ireland's early childhood care infrastructure.
"While the increase in births is very welcome, we must asses our current systems. The structures we have in place are just not fit for purpose."
The total population of the EU ballooned by almost two million people last year. As a whole, the population grew from 506.9 to 508 million.
Germany continues to be a European powerhouse with some 81.2 million residents accounting for 16pc of the total.
France takes the second spot with 13pc of the population or 66.4 million residents.
The UK, which is home to some 64.8 million people, makes up 12.9pc.
During 2014, 5.1 million babies were born, 33,000 up on the previous year. It appears Europeans are now living longer with the number of deaths across Europe down by 46,000 to 4.9 million.