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The Way We Live: State is 'not preparing' for more diverse population


Stock Image: PA

Stock Image: PA

Stock Image: PA

Ireland is becoming more diverse, with the bulk of population growth over the last decade made up of ethnic groups other than 'white Irish'.

An analysis of census data from 2006 and 2016 reveals that while the number of people who classified themselves as 'white Irish' rose by almost 210,000 over the decade, those who referred to themselves as belonging to other ethnic groups increased by more than 250,000.

It also reveals that Clara, in Co Offaly, is the town where the largest bulk of the population refers to themselves as 'white Irish'. While 82.18pc of the population class themselves as being part of this ethnic group, it rises to more than 90pc in eight towns including Clara, Kill and Derrinturn, in Co Kildare, Lifford and Convoy, in Co Donegal, Fethard in Co Tipperary, Castlecomer-Donaguile in Co Kilkenny, and Newport in Co Mayo.

The most diverse town in the State is Ballyhaunis, in Co Mayo, where just 38.54pc of the population describe themselves as 'white Irish', followed by Edgeworthstown in Co Longford (51.41pc).

The figures are based on census returns from 2006 and 2016. Householders self-describe their ethnic background, with four main categories - white, which includes the subsets of Irish, Irish Traveller and other white background; black, which includes African or any other black background; Asian or Asian Irish, which includes Chinese or any other Asian background; and 'other'.

The data has been broken down to settlement level of 50 dwellings or more by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).


Future: Pippa Woolnough called for proactive diversity recognition

Future: Pippa Woolnough called for proactive diversity recognition

Future: Pippa Woolnough called for proactive diversity recognition

The returns show that 535,475 non-Irish nationals from 200 different countries were living here in April 2016 when the census was taken. The highest increase in absolute numbers since 2006 was in 'white other', which would include people from EU accession states. Some 9.53pc of the population fall into this category, and numbers rose by 54.55pc over the decade.

It is followed by 'Asian', up 46,375. This cohort represents 2.1pc of the population. Another 1.38pc identify as black, up 46pc. Some 1.51pc are classed as 'other', up 24,165, while just 0.66pc of the population identifies as 'white Irish Traveller', up 8,618 or 38.5pc.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland said Ireland was seen as a destination country, with people arriving on visas, critical skills work permits, as EU residents and refugees, but the country was "not preparing for diversity".

"One in eight people is from a migrant background. One of the talismans we have, the Rose of Tralee, is African Irish and I don't think we're used to hearing that," communications and advocacy manager Pippa Woolnough said.

"Just three from 949 councillors are from a migrant background. Only one in 240 gardaí is from migrant backgrounds.

"That's not representative of the communities they represent. Ireland is diverse and if we're not being proactive and recognising that diversity and celebrating it, there is a danger we will walk into segregation and tension which we see in our nearest neighbours."

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The data shows Cork is the most 'white Irish' city while Galway has the highest proportion of white Irish Traveller and people of black ethnicity.

How Ireland is becoming more diverse


  • 82.18pc of the population classify themselves as 'white Irish', up 5.73pc or 209,027.
  • Clara, in Co Offaly, is the 'most' white Irish town, with 92.1pc falling into this category. In eight towns, 90pc of the population fall into this category. The others are Kill and Derrinturn, in Co Kildare; Lifford and Convoy, in Co Donegal;Castlecomer-Doneguile, in Co Kilkenny; Newport, in Co Mayo and Fethard, in Co Tipperary.
  • The lowest percentage is Ballyhaunis, in Co Mayo, at 38.54pc.


  • 9.53pc are 'white other', up 157,686 or 54.55pc.
  • Monaghan, at 28.4pc, has the highest percentage, followed by Ballyhaunis (27.5pc), Ballymahon, in Co Longford, at 26.11pc and Saggart, in Dublin, at 25.56pc.


  • 0.66pc are 'white Irish Traveller', up 8,618 or 38.5pc.
  • The highest proportion is in Bunclody-Carrickduff (Carlow/Wexford), at just over 11pc. This is followed by Abbeyfeale, in Co Limerick (10.72pc), Tuam (8.33pc), Ballinasloe (7.75pc) and Longford at 7.32pc. The percentage fell in 23 towns and rose in 120.


  • Some 2.1pc classify themselves as 'Asian', up 88pc, or 46,375.
  • The highest percentage is in Ballyhaunis at 13.47pc, followed by Ballaghaderreen, in Co Roscommon, at 12.12pc, Saggart, in Dublin, at 8.71pc, Edgeworthstown, in Co Longford, at 6.88pc, and 5.56pc in Cavan.
  • The lowest percentage is in Fethard, in Co Tipperary, at just 0.13pc.
  • The Asian population dropped in four places - Ballyshannon, Co Donegal (down 13pc), Dingle (down 14.3pc), Enniskerry (down almost 35pc) and Abbeyfeale, in Co Limerick (down 71.43pc).


  • 1.38pc classed themselves as 'black', up 46pc, or 20,321.
  • Balbriggan, in Co Dublin, has the highest proportion of black inhabitants, at 11pc, up 151pc, or by 1,426. This is followed by Carrigtwohill, in Co Cork, at just over 6pc, Edgeworthstown, in Co Longford, at 5.6pc, Balrothery, in north Dublin, at 5.5pc, and Longford at 5.5pc.
  • The highest increase was Newcastle, Co Dublin, at 3,300pc, up 99 people.


  • 1.51pc are classed as 'other', up 24,165.
  • 9pc of the population of Gort, Co Galway, identify as 'other', followed by 6.6pc in Ballyhaunis.

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