On Friday 28 October, the hashtag #IrelandisFull was trending in Ireland Twitter.
The racists and far-right groups continue to exploit the housing crisis and blame migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers for the deepening problem.
They use slogans such as “house the Irish first”, “Ireland is full” and “look after our own first”. In a recession when unemployment is high, they will focus on jobs. It will be “Irish jobs for Irish workers”. At present it is obviously housing. These slogans may sound ‘reasonable’ but they are in fact demands for extreme racist discrimination.
Let’s get a few things out of the way.
- “Ireland is full” is not a statement of truth, does not have any geographical, historical, and social evidence behind it.
- This phrase does not expose a problem, or a threat Ireland is facing. It is in fact a problem and a threat itself for this country and the people living here.
- It is not an intelligent or even an original slogan either, however catchy it might sound. It is a slogan repeatedly used in different countries in Europe for more than three four decades. Strangely, Europe has been full for more than 40 years but somehow there is still so much space. It never overflooded.
- “Ireland is full” is the Irish version of an historic lie that has been in circulation around Europe.
- It is not a policy proposal to address any issues; it is not a progressive intervention to solve a problem. It is about bitter racism that has nothing else to offer other than seeing fellow human beings as a problem.
Those that use this phrase claim not to be racist by saying “I am not against foreigners, but Ireland is full”. Let’s consider this for a moment. If what they are saying is all about some economic, geographical ‘facts’ then same arguments could be used by other people in other countries.
A Department of Justice Document titled, ‘Irish Emigration Patterns and Citizens Abroad’ says, “In terms of actual citizens abroad, it is estimated that there are approximately 1.47 million citizens resident outside the State. This figure does not include the population of Northern Ireland and their descendants in Britain, who total 2.121 million people.”
Consider that these Irish emigrants abroad were told, “Britain is full” or “Australia is full” or “The USA is full” or “Germany is full”, for the same reasons that some in Ireland say, “Ireland is full”. Surely, like those in Ireland, these would claim not to be racist but only stating a ‘fact’.
- What would the “Ireland is full” brigade say to Irish emigrants wanting to come home?
- Or, if an Irish nurse got a job in Australia but was told, “Australia is full”, what would they say to this?
Can you imagine, anytime, anywhere there is a housing crisis, the immediate reaction was “our country is full”.
Can you also imagine, if the U.S. Government started deporting undocumented Irish living and working in the country.
Let us get back to reality of the “Ireland is full”. Those claiming to worry about the ‘Irish People’ don’t mean ordinary working people, whatever their colour, or where they’re from. They mean only Irish born and ‘white’.
On the day Twitter was buzzing with Musk’s takeover, Ireland timelines were filled with #IrelandIsFull.
Is Ireland full?
Central Statistics Office publishes annual population figures.
Regional population figures don’t always go in one direction. The world population is increasing naturally. There are movement of people due to various reasons, including economic activity, urbanisation, forced migration and displacements, war etc.
Irish people, like many others have been emigrating for centuries.
The below chart produced using CSO figures shows the annual components of population change (thousand) between 1987 – 2022. (Natural increase, net migration and population change)
While there has been a slow natural increase, there have been also sharp rises and falls in net migration (people coming to Ireland and leaving the country) and overall population change. These figures are in Thousand.
In 2021 the net migration was just over 61,000 and the population change was just under 90,000.
At its highest, the island of Ireland had 8.18 million Population. Today, 181 years since this peak the island of Ireland has 7.1 million population with 1.9 million in the North and 5.1 million in the South. This is 1 million less compared to 1841.
Furthermore, the population growth rate is far less than the period between 1600 and 1841.
The following char presents Ireland Population Density 1950-2100 according to U.N. data and projections. As in any projections exact numbers for future cannot be guessed but these are based on data patterns and scientific methods. Ireland’s population increase and density is not above and beyond what’s happening in other parts of Europe.
World Bank Data shows the global population density figures for each country. Using the official figures, Ireland with 72.37 population density per square meter ranks 26 among 38 European countries. The EU population density is 111.97 people per square meter.
The European Union projects a fast-ageing European Population where the ratio of working population to retired is estimated to become 2-1. This is acknowledged as a problem and the EU clearly identifies this a threat to European economies.
According to the EU projections Ireland (South) will reach a population of 6.6 million by 2100, which is including the North is just about at the same level as 1841.
Population Growth is not a problem
17 million people live in a geography the same size as Munster. That geography is the Netherlands where a normal society can function, overcoming the challenges that come with. These challenges are about building living spaces and public services, not fences around the place.
In 1840, there were almost eight million people living in Ireland. That was almost 200 years ago when living standards and infrastructure were primitive.
Population growth may scare some. They may think, this will put pressure on resources, infrastructure, climate and land. History suggest differently: The human race and labour has an ability to work its way through growth challenges and develop solutions that improve people’s lives by providing the needed resources to live in a modern world.
Population growth offers benefits for the country.
- It creates jobs.
- It creates demands for education, health, housing, transport and general public services that generate jobs and enhanced economic activity.
- It creates rich scientific, cultural and artistic developments.
The problem is not population growth but how our societies are organised and run. Whose interests are protected at whose expense.
Data provided by the U.N International Organisation for Migration shows that migrants are not a majority in the world. The vast majority of people continue to live in the countries in which they were born — only one in 30 are migrants.
The current global estimate is that there were around 281 million international migrants in the world in 2020, which equates to 3.6 per cent of the global population.
Ireland is not full!