Birth rates continue to fall as baby boom wanes
Ireland's baby boom is continuing to wane, with only two counties slightly bucking the trend.
The latest HSE figures for births in the country's 19 maternity units estimate 61,902 babies were born last year - down from a high of 75,554 in 2009.
The only two maternity units to show an increase in births were in Portlaoise Hospital and Mullingar Hospital.
Births in Portlaoise Hospital went up from 1,485 in 2016 to 1,552 last year.
The maternity unit in Mullingar saw births edge upwards from 2,107 to 2,114 over the course of the year.
The increase in Portlaoise Hospital marks a turnaround in its fortunes after it was at the centre of major inquiries following the deaths of a number of babies in its maternity unit over a number of years.
There has been a substantial percentage drop in births of 8.1pc in Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, Galway, which has also been subject to an external inquiry over baby deaths.
The largest fall in births was in Mayo, where the number of babies born last year dropped to 1,547, down from 1,650 in 2016.
Births in the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin, went down by 5.3pc but it remained very busy with 8,619 babies delivered, according to the HSE's end-of-year performance report.
The ongoing fall in the birth rate has implications for the country's ability to pay for our growing, ageing population.
In Census 2016, 37.2pc of the population were aged 45 and over, compared with 34.4pc in 2011 and 27.6pc in 1986.
The number in the 65-and-over age group increased by 102,174 - more than twice the rise in 15-64-year-olds, which was 44,477 since 2011.
Meanwhile, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference today is hearing about an international fertility clinic catering to Irish patients choosing to undergo IVF.
The Institut Marques is announcing Irish couples will no longer have to travel to Spain for using anonymous donated eggs. A pioneering new programme means it can receive a frozen sperm sample from the would-be father in the post.
It will carry out IVF with donor eggs remotely for their patients - before sending the created embryos on a journey back to Ireland for implantation. It will save couples the stress of having to travel for the procedure.