Divorce rate here lower than the rest of Europe
Percentage of marriages ending in Ireland a quarter of that in Britain
IRELAND has the lowest divorce rate and the highest birth rate in Europe, new figures reveal.
Although the figures were not unexpected, a new snapshot shows the rate of divorce in Ireland is only a quarter of that in neighbouring Britain.
Compiled by Eurostat to mark the UN's International Day of Families, the figures show Irish households spend less than the European average on housing, water and energy costs.
In 2004, there were seven divorces for every thousand people in Ireland, well below the EU average of 21.
The highest rates were in Estonia, Belgium and the UK. Italy has the second lowest divorce rate, at eight per thousand. Meanwhile, they deliver just under 10 babies per year per thousand people, compared to Ireland's 15.
The low divorce rate here may be linked to its recent introduction, West of Ireland MEP Marian Harkin said.
"You can't get divorced unless you're separated for five years, so it's difficult to say if they reflect the reality yet in Ireland," she said.
"If you look at most general statistics, we're up near the European average. But obviously it isn't the case on this issue. It's heartening to see it hasn't become part of the fabric of how we live our lives." The lower rate here was good from a family perspective, she added. The strong birth rate could become even more significant in a few years' time, as the pensions issue becomes a bigger question.
"The whole issue of Europe ageing is going to be hugely important in 20 or 30 years, and Ireland is one of the countries going in the right direction on this.
When it comes to the practical things like paying people's pensions, we can pay them and sustain society," she said.
The Irish are not always at either the top or the bottom of the league.
We are very much average Europeans when it comes to numbers of marriages, or the proportion of children born outside wedlock.
In general, there's a vast disparity in these statistics across Europe. Although the rate is just 3pc in Cyprus, the majority of Swedish parents aren't married when their children are born.
Ireland's rate, at just under one in three, remains exactly in line with the average across all 25 countries.
Cypriots seem the most keen on marriage, with more than seven per year for every thousand people, while both Ireland and Britain's five per thousand per year is slightly above average.
Slovenes are the least enthusiastic about marriage.
When crunching the numbers on household spending, Ireland's overall results were also in line with the European average, according to Eurostat.
Despite fears of people overstretching themselves on property deals, Irish households spend one-fifth of their income on housing, water and energy costs. Eurostat confirmed these housing figure also took into account mortgage and rental costs.
Slovaks and Finns appear to be spending a much greater proportion of their income paying for accommodation and energy - 27pc of far lower earnings in Slovakia, for example. For spending on other categories such as transport, food, recreation and clothing, Irish people consistently spend less than the average.
The figures, unfortunately, do not reveal where the remainder of household spending goes.