Ireland Population and Language

The poverty forced Irish people to emigrate for a long time, but during the financially good years of the 1990s and a bit into the new century, immigration to Ireland instead took off. Many who had previously moved abroad returned home. From 2008, however, the economic crisis has forced many, especially young Irish people, to resign in search of work. Yet, fewer people are leaving today than during the last economic crisis of the 1980s.

Ireland Population Forecast

Ireland has higher birth rates than other EU countries, but they have dropped in recent years. The Catholic Church’s influence over family planning has diminished and nowadays most Irish people use contraceptives. Nowadays, Irish families have an average of 1.38 children.

  • COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Ireland, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.

Since the late 1980s, the population has grown older. At the 2016 census, the average age was just over 37, which was an increase of 1.3 years since 2011. But still, just over a third of residents are under the age of 25. More than 13 percent of the population is over 65. However, the differences are large in different parts of the country, where the elderly are significantly more rural than in the larger cities.

It is also the urban population that is growing while the rural population is shrinking.

There is a small minority of so-called travelers (in 2016 they were almost 31,000 people). People from this group have shorter average lives, poorer education and about 12 percent of them lack permanent housing.

Ireland Population and Language

Immigration and immigration

Since the famine years in the 1840s, emigration has, with few exceptions, been greater than immigration. A large number of those who settled settled in the UK, North America or Australia.

From April 2018 to April 2018, about 55,000 people emigrated from Ireland, while close to 90,000 immigrated to the country, of which, however, more than 26,000 were Irish returning to their home country.

In 2019, there were over 622,000 foreign nationals in Ireland. Immigration to Ireland gained momentum as the EU gained ten new member states. A large proportion of immigrants come from Poland (about 123,000 at the 2016 census), the second largest group comes from the UK (just over 100,000), Lithuania, Romania, Latvia, Brazil, Spain, Italy, France, Germany and India. Other major immigrant groups are Americans (of which almost 18,000 had dual US / Irish citizenship).

The number of asylum seekers increased rapidly in the 1990s, but after 2002 not as many have come (then almost 12,000 came), partly due to increasingly tougher legislation. In 2011, only 1,250 people applied for asylum in the country, but in 2015 to 2019 the number of asylum seekers increased to between 3,000 and 4,000. Most of the asylum seekers came from Nigeria, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Congo-Kinshasa, Georgia and Albania in 2001–2019.

In connection with the refugee disaster around the Mediterranean in 2015, Ireland agreed to receive 4,000 asylum seekers from other EU countries.

Human rights groups have criticized Ireland’s lengthy and complicated asylum processes (2019 had an average waiting time of 15 months) and too little regard for children’s needs. During the asylum process, the refugees have to live in special places, but since everyone does not have a place where asylum seekers are allowed to live in simple hotels and boarding houses, where the state is responsible for their basic needs (food, electricity, laundry, etc.). In addition, they are entitled to just under € 39 a week for adults and almost € 30 a week for children. Since 2018, asylum seekers can work during the asylum process, on condition that they meet certain criteria. Among other things, they must have a special work permit which can then be renewed six months at a time.

Previously, all children born in Ireland became Irish citizens. This right was written into the constitution when the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement was signed in 1998. According to the government, this was abused by women from outside the EU who traveled to Ireland to give birth to their children there and the rules were changed after a referendum in 2004. Since then, only children with at least one Irish a parent or child whose parents have lived in the country for at least three years entitled to citizenship.

In the wake of the economic crisis, it became more common to question the right of immigrants to take part in the Irish welfare system. According to a 2006 study, just over a third of immigrants felt that they had been subjected to discrimination or harassment because of their ethnic background. Particularly vulnerable are people of African origin.


The Irish (or Gaelic) Irish Celtic language was long the dominant language. It was not until the 19th century that a majority of the population switched to English. An active policy is in place to preserve the Irish. The language is a compulsory subject in elementary school and in the gaeltacht, the small areas, mainly on the west coast, where the iris is still the first language to receive financial support. According to the 2016 census, nearly 1.8 million Irish people said they could speak Irish. Of these, however, only about 74,000 people spoke the language everyday.



Irish 88%, most of the others come from other EU countries, including UK, Brazil, India and USA 1

Number of residents

4,813,608 (2017)

Number of residents per square kilometer

70 (2017)

Percentage of residents in the cities

62.9 percent (2017)

Nativity / birth

13.5 per 1000 residents (2016)

Mortality / mortality

6.4 per 1000 residents (2016)


1.2 percent (2017)

fertility rate

1.9 number of births per woman (2016)

Percentage of women

50.4 percent (2017)

Life expectancy

82 years (2016)

Life expectancy for women

83 years (2016)

Life expectancy for men

80 years (2016)


English and Irish are official languages

  1. Census 2016. Some of the Irish have dual citizenship.Sources



The government saves on welfare

The government presents new cuts and tax and fee increases totaling almost EUR 4 billion. Most should be saved on healthcare (EUR 543 million), social welfare (EUR 475 million) and education (EUR 132 million). At the same time, fees will be increased in a number of areas, such as health insurance, registration fees for university and college students, as well as an increase in VAT (by 2 percent to 23 percent) and various taxes on fuel and cars.


Ireland closes its embassy in the Vatican

Ireland announces that it is closing its embassy in the Vatican for savings.


Higgins becomes new president

October 27th

Labor Party Michael D Higgins wins presidential election. 40 percent of voters have him as their first choice and he will take over as president on November 11.

Seven candidates are running for president

October 27th

Seven candidates stand in the presidential race: Gay Mitchell from Fine Gael, Independent Mary Davis, businessman Sean Gallagher, Michael D Higgins from the Labor Party, and Martin McGuinness from Sinn Féin, singer Dana Rosemary Scallon, and Senator David Norris (an academic who campaigned for gay rights). Great attention is paid to Martin McGuinness and his past in the Irish Republican Army (IRA). He has said he left the organization as early as 1974, but most Irish people are convinced that he held a leading position within the IRA’s Army Council for longer than that. At elections, he is confronted with children of people killed by the IRA. Several observers say that McGuinness does not expect to win, but that he participates to broaden Sinn Féin’s political platform south of the border.


Kenny criticizes the Catholic Church

July 20

Prime Minister Kenny, himself a devout Catholic, gives a speech in the Chamber of Deputies where he strongly criticizes the Catholic Church.

The Murphy Commission strongly criticizes the Catholic Church

July 30

In its fourth report, the Murphy Commission (Religion) strongly criticizes the Catholic Church. This time around, it is how the church handled charges against 19 priests who were suspected of sexual abuse in Cloyne’s diocese outside Cork in 1996–2009. Among other things, the bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, had claimed that he had reported all suspected cases to the authorities, which was not correct. Criticism is also directed at the Vatican.


The British Queen is visiting Ireland

Queen Elizabeth II of Britain comes to Ireland on a state visit. It is the first time since the independence of a British monarch to visit the country (see also Foreign Policy and Defense).


Reduced credit rating

The credit rating agency Moodys lowers the ratings for several Irish banks. A report on the banking crisis compiled by a Finnish finance expert, Peter Nyberg, states that the Irish banks have taken astonishingly large risks in their lending and that, together with the lack of a functioning state regulatory framework, has led to the collapse of the banking system. He also says that Cowens and Lenihan’s decision to introduce a state bank guarantee in September had been taken on inadequate grounds, while most players ignored the warning signals that still existed. Most criticism is directed at the management of Anglo Irish Bank and the Nationwide Building Society.


New coalition government

Fine Gael and Labor form a coalition government with Fine Gael’s leader Enda Kenny prime minister (Taoiseach) and Labor leader Eamon Gilmore as foreign minister.


Fine Gael wins the election

February 25th

In the general election, Fine Gael becomes the largest party with 36.1 percent of the vote. It gives the party 76 seats, Labor gets 37 seats and 19.4 percent, Sinn Fein 14 seats and 9.9 percent and the United Left Alliance (a collaboration between the Socialist Party and the Alliance People before Profit), gets 4 seats. Fianna Fáil receives 17.4 percent of the vote, giving only 19 seats, compared to 81 seats in the election before. 14 independent candidates are also elected to the Chamber of Deputies. Voter turnout is just over 70 percent, the highest figure since 1987. Fianna Fáil is doing particularly poorly in Dublin. Sinn Féin has by far the largest election success in Ireland. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams belongs to those who enter the Irish Chamber of Deputies. Shortly before the election, he left his seat in the Northern Ireland Parliament.


Ready for new elections

At the end of the month, both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate approve the finance law that enables emergency loans from, for example, the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The cow dissolves the Chamber of Deputies and announces new elections.

Martin becomes new leader for Fianna Fáil

January 26

Fianna Fáil appoints former Foreign Minister Micheál Martin as new party leader.

Cowen resigns as party leader

January 22

Cowen resigns as party leader, but remains as prime minister for the time being. The day after, the Green Party leaves the government.

The cow is forced to retire

January 18

Fianna Fáil holds a secret ballot in the middle of the month about whether Brian Cowen should remain as party leader. Foreign Minister Micheál Martin leaves the government after saying that he does not intend to support Cowen, who, however, gets renewed confidence. However, the Cow decides to resign when another seven ministers leave the government.