Two figures from the initial census results say a lot about the challenges ahead for Ireland.
Income increased by 7.6 percent since 2016. The housing stock rose 6 percent.
No one needs to tell that there is a current housing shortage but these figures tell us that it is not going to decrease any time soon.
But don’t take daily tales of despair from hope-washed home-seekers, or even the latest census data, to highlight the problem because we’ve been headed this way for a long time.
Much of the interest in the new population figures comes from the fact that we have broken the five million barrier for the first time in 170 years, and we now have the highest population since the 1841 famine.
Arguably a more interesting comparison is the far more recent one. In 2002 we had a population of over 3.9 million. We have grown 30 percent in just 20 years.
At the time there was enough spark to speculate that population growth was a trend, and there would be challenges to understanding it.
With most of the development in the east of the country, and a small set of counties in and around Dublin, the National Spatial Strategy was drawn up.
It will encourage more equitably balanced growth and development across the country, bringing with it thriving, prosperous, attractive, well-serviced, well-connected regional cities and provincial towns without intense competition for housing that is affordable. raises prices.
Failure to implement that strategy means that 20 years later, despite welcome news that every county has experienced some population growth when many lost numbers in the last census, growth is once again concentrated in the East.
Once again, we are talking about the Rural Upliftment Fund and the rejuvenation of provincial cities with town-centre-first policies and ambitious regional and rural transport plans, which together will encourage more equitably balanced growth and development And so on.
It is not just housing that is failing to keep pace with the population or the geography of population growth.
Many areas are short of school locations, childcare places almost everywhere, hospitals like University Hospital Limerick are so crowded that a crisis unit has been deployed, well, who knows?
Some time ago an expansion plan was drawn up for the hospital setting out the number of additional beds needed to meet current and future demand, but not all of them were delivered.
Elsewhere, there are so few medical specialists and hospital consultants per capita of the population that children with chronic conditions will be older by the time they make their first appointment.
It is as if policy makers do not believe the numbers in front of them, as if they are still psychologically trapped in the 1840s, 1950s or 1980s when Ireland was a country of emigration.
It was not considered necessary then to plan for the stay of the people and sadly, it was not considered appropriate to try to entice them to come back.
There is a certain apathy towards population growth, even among those who would see an increase in the number of their own profession if they properly embraced this trend.
Ten years ago, five of the then 40 Dell constituencies had more than 30,000 people per TD – an unconstitutional ratio that requires seats.
In 2016, this increased to 25 constituencies and now we are told that it is 38 out of 39 constituencies.
If it’s not the lack of housing, hospitals or childcare that drives politicians to think and plan ahead, perhaps they’ll have a few more seats in their own home.