Failures of planning have an all-too-real human cost
Published 15/07/2016 | 02:30
It was the Romans who came up with the notion of a census - not for the good of the people, but for optimising the most efficient means of gathering taxation. The word derives from censere, to 'assess'.
According to the Central Statistics Office, the total population is now 4,757,976. In the last five years, our population has grown by 3.7pc. But that is only part of the story. For instance, in Donegal, one parish has seen 40 of its young men scatter across the globe; the county itself experienced a decline in population of 1.5pc. Meanwhile, in the capital, one area saw a surge of 8pc.
The figures are further evidence of a rural-urban divide and will raise new questions, while also pointing to possible answers as to how we might better plan future development. It confirms the alarming deficit in housing, with demand far outstripping supply.
A surprising factor is the number of vacant homes.
According to Francis Doherty at the Peter McVerry Trust: "If you take the figures for the Dublin local authorities, there are 36,000 vacant units in the region and there are 4,000 individuals in homelessness."
His call for the State to act on the empty properties in private ownership, given the scale of need, makes sense.
The census also tells us that people are living longer and unless health gets the funding and restructuring that it requires, even more elderly people will find themselves sleeping on hospital trolleys. But it is obviously not merely about numbers; it is about people. It is about how we live and organise ourselves. And the unavoidable message of the census is that we might do a whole lot better.