THE population of Clare has increased by 40% in a generation, preliminary figures from Census 2022 have revealed.
Figures published from this year’s census found that Clare’s 2022 population is 127,419, up by 7.2% on 2016.
It is slightly less than the 7.6% increase in population for the Republic as a whole, but represents a substantial increase from the census of 1991, one generation ago.
That year, Clare’s population was just 90,918, which was a slight drop from the previous census, but every one held since has seen an increase.
Clare now has an extra 36,517 living within its borders than it did then, an increase of 40%.
The increased population has been reflected in a number of capacity issues seen in the county in recent years, with health services, schools and housing struggling to keep up with the pressure from the rise in residents.
Since the last census in the 2016 the population has gone up by 8,602. There were exactly 310 weeks between the two censuses, and on average Clare’s population increased by 28 people each week during the six-year period.
On housing, the census showed that the county’s stock increased by 4.2%, significantly less than the level of population growth, which is unsurprising given how quickly prices have increased over the last six years.
One piece of good news however, was that the vacancy rate dropped by 12%.
Clare TD Michael McNamara said that in general long term planning for a larger population has not happened to the extent required.
“We don’t really do planning very well in general in Ireland. We’re usually trying to scramble for the needs of today that weren’t planned for yesterday, and we’re too busy with that to even think about the needs of tomorrow.”
He said that emigration from Ireland now is less likely to be permanent, and the country receives more people than leave.
“For the first 70 years of the Irish State, large cohorts of the population emigrated. We still have people emigrating, but it’s often for a relatively short period of time, young people go for a couple of years and then come back.
“We don’t really have people emigrating like we used to any more, instead we have emigrants coming into the country.
“And we need them; if you go into any of our hospitals you’ll find that the nurses and a large cohort of the staff generally are people who weren’t born in Ireland, the same is true across a number of sectors.”
Mr McNamara said that the HSE has failed to deliver appropriate health care facilities for Clare and for the country generally.
“It is a complete failure of planning, the HSE has been pretty much a failure of planning from the outset, Michéal Martin is a fan of it, but he would be wouldn’t he, he set it up. But they haven’t really demonstrated a great ability to plan for the needs of tomorrow.”
A recent HIQA report raised serious concerns about safety at UHL, which wouldn’t have surprised many people in the region who have had direct experience with the overcrowded hospital.
“They pointed out that part of the reason for the pressure at UHL was that it was the only Model 4 hospital in the region and there were only Model 2 hospitals otherwise.
“I heard a HIQA representative on the radio and I thought it was strongly suggested that would be re-examined,” said Deputy McNamara.
He said new facilities are needed, given the growing and ageing population, to take some of the pressure off the main hospital in the region.
“The labels don’t really matter, what you’re going to call Ennis, whether it’s Model 2, Model 2 Special, Model 3, Model 4, what does matter is that everyone in the entire Mid-West region, where the population is growing rapidly, that everybody isn’t being funnelled into UHL, creating this huge bottleneck, which has been acknowledged by HIQA poses a risk to patients.
“Obviously people who have had a heart attack or a stroke or a severe accident and their lives are in danger, they need to go to an acute hospital setting like Limerick.
“But there are a large number of patients who, day in and day out, are being brought into Limerick who could be brought elsewhere.
“We need to have a facility that people in Clare can go to, if they have fallen ill, but their life isn’t in danger. There has to be a place in Limerick too for people to go to, if their life isn’t in danger but they have fallen ill.”
He said that there is also a major need to improve public transport in the country, and that despite lip service, there seems to be few plans to improve the rail network.
“At the time of independence we had a better transport infrastructure in Clare and Ireland relative to the needs of the time than we do now.”