Figures released yesterday show that Offaly's population has increased by 8.4% since 2006. The total population of Offaly, calculated from a census taken on April 10 last, is now estimated to stand at 76,806.
The increase is represented nationally too, with figures showing that Ireland's population as a whole is growing strongly, primarily due to a high number of births. The total population of Ireland is currently 4,581,269. This represents an increase of 341,421 or 8.1% since the last census in 2006.
The Midlands (Offaly, Laois, Longford, Westmeath) boasts the biggest percentage population increase in the country. Its current population of 251,664 represents a 12.1% increase on previous figures.
The fastest growing county in percentage terms is neighbouring Laois. Its population increased by 13,399 from 67,059 in 2006 to 80,458 in 2011. This 20% population increase is over twice the increase rate for the state as a whole.
The figures all add up to make the Laois-Offaly constituency one of only two with more than the prescribed maximum of 30,000 people per TD.
The constituency population total of 152,824 means as it stands there is only one TD per 30,565 people in Laois-Offaly. The other constituency in a similar predicament is Kildare South, which boasts only one TD per 30,092 people.
The national population figures mean a previous Fine Gael proposal to reduce TD numbers by 20 will not now be constitutional. A Constituency Commission is to be established however to provide for between 153 and 160 TDs in the next Dail, representing a cut of between six and 13 TDs. One hundred and fifty-three TDs is the minimum requirement for a national ratio of one TD per 30,000 people to be maintained. Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan said yesterday the Commission would be requested to keep county boundaries intact as far as possible, to maintain as much continuity as possible with existing constituencies and to have three, four and five seat constituencies.
Meanwhile the Midlands is the only region to buck the national male/female ratio. Offaly boasts 1004 males for every 1,000 females, while the Midlands counties as a whole claim 1,002 males for every 1,000 females in the population. Ireland's population as a whole shows an average of just 981 males per 1,000 females however.
The figures also report 3,648 vacant dwellings in Offaly, up 2.8% since the 2006 census.
April's census was the 26th census undertaken in Ireland. The first was carried out in 1821. A census was carried out every ten years until 1946, with a gap between 1911 and 1926, and every five years since 1951. A new EU regulation means there will be a census in every EU country in 2011.