|Population Distribution||Population Change|
|Populations of towns in Ireland of size 7000 plus|
|Download population data of towns in Ireland of size 1000 plus|
|Compared to other parts of Europe, Ireland is very sparsely populated. In
fact, the population today is significantly lower than it was 160 years ago. The current
population of the island as a whole is 5,162,535 which breaks down as 3,621,035 in the
Republic of Ireland (1,056,666 in county Dublin, 2,564,369 elsewhere) and 1,541,500 in
Northern Ireland. In 1841, the population of the island was 8,175,124.
Settlement is concentrated heavily around the east and south coasts. The major metropolitan areas include Belfast, Cork and Dublin. After Dublin, eastern Ulster has the highest population density in Ireland.
Northern Ireland is more densely populated than most of the island, with 30% of Irish people living within its borders. A million people live in counties Antrim and Down alone. The area around Belfast Lough is very densely populated, and includes 6 towns of over 20,000 inhabitants (Bangor, Belfast, Carrickfergus, Lisburn, Newtownabbey and Newtownards).
In the Irish Republic, Dublin county has been growing explosively in recent decades, reaching 1,000,000 people by the 1981 census. Dublin city proper had 860,000 inhabitants at the last census. Today it is a sprawling mixture of factories, housing estates and commerical centres. Today 1 in 5 Irish people live in Dublin county. The country has 9 towns of over 20,000 inhabitants (Bray, Cork, Drogheda, Dublin, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire, Galway, Limerick and Waterford).
By contrast, population on the west coast is very sparse. This can be attributed both to the proximity of the east coast to the economic markets of Britain and to the fact that the best agricultural land lies to the east. The east was also the first area to be settled by each wave of invaders - Celts, Vikings, Normans and English. The map above shows the density of population in Ireland in the period 1992 to 1996.
The map on the left shows the distribution pattern of the 94 Irish towns which have over 5000 inhabitants. This map clearly shows the concentrations of towns in eastern Northern Ireland and around Dublin. You can also see the more isolated cities of Galway, Limerick and Cork. Note how few settlements there are in Connaught compared to Leinster.
Ireland, despite its historically rural culture, is becoming increasingly urbanised. While it is still not nearly as urbanised as other European areas, the figures are rising. In Northern Ireland, 70.3% of the population live in towns of 1000 or more people. In the Republic of Ireland, the figure is 57.7%.
To help you visualise the distribution of population in Ireland, imagine that the entire population reduced to just 10 people. At that scale, 3 people would live in Northern Ireland. Of those 3, 1 would live in county Antrim, 1 in county Down and 1 in the remaining 4 counties. Of the 7 people in the Irish Republic, 2 would live in Dublin county and 2 in the rest of Leinster. 2 more people would live in Munster. The final person would live in Connaught and the rest of Ulster.
Ireland was in a state of negative population growth from the time of the Great Famine of the mid 1840s until as recently as the 1960s. The population recorded in the 1841 census was 8.12 million, which dropped to 4.46 million by the turn of the century. It reached an all time low of 4.23 million in 1926, after which it began a slow recovery. Today the population of the island stands at 5.16 million. The graph below summarises this trend. This trend is attributable to the large numbers of Irish who left Ireland to escape the famine, often choosing to go to America, and the number who left in following decades in seek of work, mainly in Britain. The population only started to rise again in the 1960s when the Irish economy finally came of age, but it will be decades yet before the population reaches the levels of the 19th century.
|The data that was used to create the chart above is summarised in the
table on the left. The figures post-partition (1921 onwards) are made up by combining the
Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland census figures.
*Combines the 1936 figure for the Republic of Ireland and the 1937 figure for Northern Ireland.
Population of Settlements in Ireland
|For a complete list of all 305 towns in Ireland which have over 1000
residents, click here. It is in tab-delimited format
so that you can import it into spreadsheets and databases. Column 1 is the town name,
column 2 is the county name and column 3 is the 1991 population.
summary list below gives the populations of all 72 towns in Ireland that have at least
7000 inhabitants. These figures were derived from the 1991 Northern Ireland and Republic
of Ireland Censuses. Towns in italics are in Northern Ireland. Towns in standard
type are in the Republic of Ireland.
* Comprises Dublin County Borough (478,389) and Greater
Dublin Suburbs (381,587)