IN 2002, there were 60,521 births here. If everyone has been doing their duty in these long winter evenings, there should be about 74,000 children born in this country in 2012.
That figure might be down a bit, given the increasing emigration of young people (who are more active in these matters, if memory serves).
Who knows -- enthused by the prospects facing Robbie Keane and the lads in UEFA 2012, we might see a jump in the birth rate, with a significant proportion of the offspring named 'Giovanni'.
From 60,000 births to 74,000 in the course of a decade -- we're obviously getting the hang of it. What do we have in store for these kids in 2023? And in 2031? We're not picking those dates at random; there's a point.
Here at the Soapbox Institute for Dissection of Political Entrails, we pay close attention to our leaders' mutterings, so that you don't have to.
In the second week of May of last year, Pat Rabbitte (he's the Minister for Withering Remarks About Fianna Fail) defined the Government's "over-riding national objective". It is to "restore the independence of the country and wave goodbye to the ECB".
From the words "restore the independence of the country" you might see Pat in the mould of Pearse, Collins and Dev. I was more taken with the phrase "wave goodbye to the ECB". And so, it appears, was our nominal Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.
Enda loves a phrase that he can grab hold of and use as a slash hook to decapitate the opposition.
He endlessly talks in processed language, such as "meeting the challenges that lie ahead". Whatever the occasion, he can be guaranteed to tell us he wants "to make this the best little country in the world in which to do business". Such phrases sound good but have no meaning outside the rhetorical wonderland in which these people live.
Remember Enda's Five Point Plan? For weeks, he criss-crossed the country, dodging debates and repeating the mantra -- "I have a Five Point Plan". (It was "like a star", he explained. With five points.)
I can't remember the five points and I doubt Enda can. It was stuff that sounded good -- jobs, reform, nonsense like that. It's an old debating trick, supplied by an expensive PR consultant.
Present yourself as The Man With The Plan. The detail doesn't matter -- you come over as having a strategy to repair this disaster and the other guy doesn't. Poor Micheal Martin was smothering under the Fianna Fail legacy and could only apologetically promise over and over to "do politics differently".
So last June, a month after Pat Rabbitte had wanted to "wave goodbye to the ECB", Enda announced that he wanted to "wave goodbye to the IMF". And he's been repeating it ever since. Sometimes it's phrased as "wave goodbye to Ajai Chopra". Now, Eamon Gilmore tells us he wants as quickly as possible to "say goodbye to the IMF".
Some wonder why the Government has been paralysed as Irish and European bankers load tens of billions of debt onto us and mute as US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner gives instructions on how our Government should act.
Such people might note that this "waving goodbye" to the forces of economic occupation is the Government's "over-riding national objective". It is to be rushed towards, at whatever cost.
Why? Because this is politics, not economics. This is about the politicians, not about us.
On November 21, 2010, Brian Cowen announced that the IMF/EU was taking over. A week later, the stitch-up was finalised. The country lost what independence it had. There were widespread expressions of shame. Latent nationalism stirred even within those who thought themselves cosmopolitan.
Since taking office, the Kenny/Gilmore regime has excused all its crushing policies by reminding us that the Fianna Fail/Green crowd put us "into receivership". If this Government can quickly put this phase behind us, and "wave goodbye to the IMF", the Republic will be psychologically reborn. The celebrations will be mighty.
Such a development, if properly dressed up, could obliterate Fianna Fail, give Mr Kenny a place in history and make his party dominant for a generation. I bet the PR consultants are already working on the speeches.
There's a price for this, of course. And guess who's paying?
One price has been the total refusal of the Government to challenge any aspect of the EU/IMF governance of this country -- with resulting effects on jobs and growth. (Ministers repeatedly tell us they "negotiated" a cut in the interest we pay. This is simply not true. The interest came down as a side-effect of the Greeks playing hardball.)
At every turn, the Government has played Good Boy and bowed its head to be patted. When Michael Noonan met Tim Geithner it was his duty to challenge Geithner's interference in our economic affairs. And he bottled it.
Next Wednesday, we'll pay €1.25bn to bondholder gamblers who bought Anglo debt. The EU/IMF and Mr Geithner have ordered us to do this and their banker associates will benefit. We'll pay €3bn this month and continue paying through the year.
We've been loaded with Irish and German and French bankers' gambling debts. All of this is clearly unfair and immoral. But, says our Government, by doing what we're told, no matter how unfair, we'll prove we're good boys and girls and they'll treat us nicely, by and by.
Professor Karl Whelan of UCD makes the point that there's an even bigger problem than the bondholder bailout coming down the road. On March 31, we'll pay €3.1bn to Anglo (they now call it IBRC in the hope that we won't notice it's good old Anglo). And on every March 31 until 2023 we'll pay another €3.1bn to Anglo. And from then until 2031 we'll pay about €1bn a year to Anglo.
Why? So that Anglo can meet its "promissory note" debts arising from the bank bailout -- it's a complex Central Bank manoeuvre.
Those 60,000 kids born in 2002 will be 21 in 2023 and we'll still be paying €3.1bn a year to Anglo. And the 74,000 kids born this year will be 19 in 2031 -- and we'll still be paying.
In Professor Whelan's words, this will "bleed the taxpayer dry for the next 20 years". The gross distortion of the country's economy will continue, with increasing effects on jobs, education and health. Sorry about that, wee Giovanni -- you're being raised for export.
This is the price of the submissiveness and deference of this Government -- and of its political ambitions.
Professor Whelan has suggestions as to how the "promissory note" debts could be reduced, but -- real world time, Prof. That would require standing up, opening our mouths, saying no to "our partners". Not on, I'm afraid.
Still, look on the bright side. Maybe next year or the year after, we can "wave goodbye to the IMF". And then we can join hands with Enda and sing joyfully that we are: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" And that will be a fine kind of freedom.