This year will forever be associated with the pandemic, and the deaths it has caused. It may be somewhat ironic, but it is also likely to be the year that the population of the 26 counties passes five million for the first time since Famine days.
Last Thursday's once-a-year population figures from the State's statisticians and demographers threw up interesting findings about some of the most important things in any society - death among them.
Covid-19 is already showing up in Ireland's demographics. For the first time in three years, the number of people dying rose in the 12 months to April. The loss of life in March and April of this year, the deadliest months of the pandemic, came to around 1,000 lives. This is almost certainly the reason for the number of deaths rising to 31,200 in the year to April, compared to 30,400 in the previous 12 months.
If the number of people who die each year in Ireland goes up and down, depending mostly on the severity of the annual flu season, the number of new lives beginning follows an altogether different pattern. In the year to April, the birth rate plunged to a new all-time low, in keeping with a decade-long trend.
In absolute terms, 58,000 lives began in that period. That was 3,000 below the previous year. It was down from 75,000 a decade ago, when the Celtic Tiger baby boom peaked.
What's unusual about the recent past is that a strong economy did not lead to more babies, as has been the case throughout living memory.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Ireland's birth rate was consistently high, as the economy gradually began to catch up with our neighbours in Europe's northwest. As the long slump of the 1980s and early 1990s ground on, the birth rate fell ever lower. Then suddenly from 1995, just as the Celtic Tiger began to purr, it started to shoot up again. Once the 2008 crash happened, it went into reverse.
But now that pattern of economic boom leading to baby boom seems to have broken down. Despite a return to economic growth since 2013, and something approaching boom times in more recent years, Ireland's birth rate hit fresh lows each year as the decade drew to a close. By 2016, it surpassed the previous record low of the mid-1990s.
What's going on? Convergence with the European norm is the most likely explanation. A decade ago, Ireland's birth rate was by far the highest in the EU. According to the latest Eurostat figures, it is still the highest, but around two-thirds of the gap with the EU average has disappeared. Women having fewer babies is a near-universal trend over many decades. Irish women are following that trend.
The difference between the number of people born in a given year and the numbers who die is what demographers call the 'natural' change in the population. As births have fallen back (while deaths have been broadly stable), Ireland's natural population increase had dwindled. That said, and provided Covid-19 deaths do not rise dramatically over the winter, it should be enough to push the Republic's population over the five million mark in the months to come.
The other big driver of population change is migration. And the movement of people off and onto this island has long been a much bigger factor in determining population than has been the case for other countries in Europe.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries Europe's demographics were transformed. Population growth surged in a manner never been seen before. Improved medicines and healthcare, technological changes and rapid economic growth saw population explosions across the continent.
In the first half of the 19th century, Ireland followed the broader European trend, with the island becoming increasingly crowded. Indeed, by the 1840s it was one of the more densely populated countries in Europe.
Then the Great Famine struck. It is difficult to find any place on the planet in which a single natural disaster transformed a country's demographics so profoundly and so lastingly.
Among other things, the Famine supercharged a tradition of emigration.
Young Irish people to this day are more likely to move abroad in early adulthood than most of their peers across the continent (this only really came home to me when living in Italy in my early 20s and I was often asked - with wonderment - why I wasn't at home with my family).
But, as in the case of childbearing, we have become more like our continental peers over the decades. With each major recession, levels of emigration have declined: the 1980s wave was smaller than that of the 1950s, and the numbers who left after the 2008 crash were lower again.
Migration in the coming years will become more difficult globally, as all forms of international movement have been affected by the pandemic. The Covid-19 economic depression is also likely to hit hard in all the countries which have traditionally attracted Irish emigrants in the past, so the pull factor of better job opportunities elsewhere will be much weaker this time.
For individuals who want to get away and experience life in other countries - whether out of necessity or out of choice - this will be yet another downside of Covid-19. But collectively it may be no bad thing.
Those who lived through earlier surges in emigration will recall the sense that the lifeblood of the country was being lost.
Similar national conversations have been going on in many former communist countries in Europe where large-scale emigration has contributed to some of the biggest population falls in modern history.
And there is good reason to feel a sense of loss when the young leave.
Economic migrants these days are mostly well-educated people with skills, talent and an ability to adapt. They are usually the sort of people who contribute to any society in which they live.
As the 'safety valve' of immigration will not be available in the next few years, more home-grown talent will stay at home than would usually have been the case in past slumps. Many of these young people will find ways to exercise their creativity. They will hasten a recovery from the deep slump we all now face.