Regional towns lose populations as Dublin city sprawls
The urban-rural divide continues to widen with important regional towns losing their populations, while the capital and Leinster draws workers and their families in search of opportunities.
Almost two-thirds of the entire population now lives in an urban area, with one in four of us now residing in Dublin city and surrounding suburbs, the latest results from Census 2016 show.
And the Central Statistics Office (CSO) says the urban population continues to grow at the expense of rural Ireland, with 80pc of the population increase over the past five years recorded in towns and cities.
Stark figures from the 'Population Distribution and Movements' report, the second from Census 2016, shows that of the total increase in population of 173,613 between 2011 and 2015, almost 139,000 was in towns and cities.
Our urban population grew by 4.9pc between 2011 and 2015, while the rural population rose by just 2pc. One in four of the entire population now lives in Dublin city and its suburbs.
But the report also shows that while Ennis, Sligo and Letterkenny remain the largest towns in their respective provinces, their populations are falling.
Other large towns with falling populations include Birr in Offaly, whose population fell by more than 1,400, a drop of almost 25pc; Bantry in Cork which lost 626 people (down 18.7pc), Ballybay in Monaghan which fell by 220, or 15pc, and Ballina in Mayo, whose population fell to just over 10,000, a drop of 915 or 8.3pc.
Conversely, the data reveals that the fastest-growing towns are in Dublin or the commuter belt.
Saggart in Dublin is the fastest growing small town in the State, with an increase of 46pc to 3,133 people. Maynooth in Kildare is the fastest growing large town with an increase of 16.6pc.
Eight of the 10 biggest towns in the State are in Leinster, with Drogheda in Co Louth the largest, with a population of almost 41,000, It is followed by Swords with 39,248 and Dundalk with 39,004.
In a statement which perhaps best outlines the dominance of Leinster, the CSO said: "Of the 41 settlements with a population of 10,000 or more, 27 are located in Leinster, nine are in Munster, three in Connacht and two in Ulster."
The report also sets out how people in urban areas are living closer to each other than five years ago. The population density, which measures the number of people occupying a square kilometre (km2), has risen to 70 from 67 in 2011 and 62 in 2006. In our urban areas, it stands at 2,008, compared with 27 in rural areas.
"The more densely populated areas are predominantly located within the Greater Dublin Area," the CSO said. "Kinsealy-Drinan was the most densely populated urban area with 5,830 persons per kiometre-squared, followed by Balbriggan with 4,514. Dublin City and suburbs had 3,677."
The report also illustrates how the number of people moving home throughout the country has dropped. In the 12 months to April 2016, when the Census was carried out, some 263,551 people moved home to a new house or apartment. This is a drop of 3.5pc compared with the year to April 2011, when the last Census was conducted.
But the results also reveal that 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast, or 40pc of the population. Of these, 40,468 were identified as living less than 100 metres from the sea, of which almost half are living in Cork. Some 8,756 people live on the islands, a fall of 273; 17 islands which were unpopulated in 2011 now have residents.