Small firms are taking Irish web addresses at record levels to promote new online sales channels, according to the firm that manages web domains bearing the suffix 'ie'.
More than 18,000 new websites with the Irish marker were registered in the April-June quarter as Covid-19 lockdowns shut most hospitality firms and retail shops nationwide. The firm, IE Domain Registry, said it had never experienced such demand before in its 20-year history.
Registration of new websites totalled 4,532 in April, 7,008 in May and 6,544 in June. That represented nearly 56pc growth from the same quarter a year ago and 36pc growth from the previous quarter.
"This digital expansion suggests that all business owners and entrepreneurs understand that having a trusted, uniquely Irish online presence is absolutely crucial in a time of lockdown, when nearly all physical premises are shut and footfall is extremely low or non-existent," said IE Domain Registry CEO David Curtin.
For the entire first half of 2020, more than a third of new website addresses were for small firms, nearly a quarter for self-employed workers, and 40pc for individuals. Government bodies, schools and other community groups, including clubs and bands, constituted the rest.
"Having an online presence means that these businesses can stay in contact with their customers, build on their relationships, and, most important of all, continue to sell to them through an online store, click-and-collect service or voucher booking system," Mr Curtin said.
The Dún Laoghaire-based firm also broke down the use of 'ie' addresses by Ireland's 220 Oireachtas TDs and senators. It found that all six Social Democrats used the domain, 71pc of Labour Party representatives, 57pc for Fine Gael, 56pc for the Greens, 52pc for Fianna Fáil and just 26pc for Sinn Féin.
The 'ie' domain now is used on 50.7pc of all websites hosted on the island of Ireland. Others include 'com' (32.6pc), 'uk' (8pc) and 'eu' and 'net' (both on 2.3pc).