Back to Top

 Skip navigation

Press Statement


11 May 2017

Profile 2 Population Distribution and Movements

Census 2016 Results Logo

The Central Statistics Office today publishes the second in the series of eleven thematic reports from Census 2016 – Profile 2: Population Distribution and Movements.

This report is accompanied by a set of detailed tables of population by area, published on the CSO website, which provide the population for every settlement in Ireland for 2016 and 2011.

Deirdre Cullen, Senior Statistician, commented: ”Profile 2 provides information on the distribution of the population, changes in urban and rural populations, population density and internal migration.  This is the second of our thematic census releases and sheds further light on how the population has changed over the past five years”.

Today’s full report is available on the CSO website at Census of Population 2016 - Profile 2 Population Distribution and Movements

Highlights from Profile 2 Population Distribution and Movements 

In April 2016, 44% of the State’s total urban population lived in Dublin, while 11% lived in Cork.  Sligo was the county with the biggest change in the rate of urbanisation, increasing from 37% to 40% over the five years.  Forty-one towns had a population of 10,000 or more, with 27 in Leinster, nine in Munster, three in Connacht and two in the three Ulster counties.  62.7% of the population lived in urban areas in April 2016.

Rural Areas
37.3% of the population lived in rural areas in April 2016.  The largest rural population increase was in County Cork with 6,946 persons followed by Kildare which saw its rural population increase by 4,025 persons.

Largest and fastest growing towns
Drogheda, with a population of 40,956 (up 6.2% since April 2011) remained the largest town in Ireland.  Swords (39,248) and Dundalk (39,004) complete the top three.  Ennis (25,276 persons) remained the largest town in Munster.  Sligo with 19,199 persons was Connacht's largest town, while Letterkenny (19,274 persons) was the largest town in the three Ulster counties.  The latter three towns experienced a slight decline in population since April 2011. 

Population Density
There were 70 people per km2 in April 2016, up from 67 people per km2 in 2011.  The density average in 2016 was 2,008 people per km2 in urban areas and 27 people per km2  in rural areas while in 2011 the respective figures were 1,736 and 26.

Coastal Living
1.9 million people or 40% of the population were residing within 5km of the coast.  Of this figure, 40,000 lived less than 100 metres from the nearest coastline.

County of birth and county of residence
65.1% of Meath’s population were born outside the county, the highest proportion in the country.  Cork city and county, at 25.5%, had the lowest proportion of residents born outside the county.  Just 13% of those born in Donegal were usually resident in another county.

Internal migration declines
263,551 usual residents (aged one year and over) moved in the year up to April 2016, down 3.5% on the 2011 figure of 273,239.  Of these, 94,182 moved in Dublin, with 18,716 moving out of the county.  The top destinations were Kildare, Meath and Wicklow.  The number of households moving in the year up to April 2016 fell by 4% to 110,204.

Age profile of movers
The most mobile cohort of the population was those aged 20 to 34, accounting for 45.7% of all movers.  28 was the peak age for moving in the year up to 2016 compared with 25 in 2011.  The numbers dropped considerably for those aged 40 and over who made up only 21.6% of the movers.

Today’s full report is available on the CSO website at Census of Population 2016 - Profile 2 Population Distribution and Movements

Editor's Note:

Note to Editors:

  • The census figures relate to the de facto population, i.e. the population recorded for each area represents the total of all persons present within its boundaries on the night of Sunday, 24 April 2016, together with all persons who arrived in that area on the morning of Monday, 25 April 2016, not having been enumerated elsewhere.  Persons on board ships in port are included with the population of adjacent areas.  The figures, therefore, include visitors present on Census Night as well as those in residence, while usual residents temporarily absent from the area are excluded.
  • The de facto measure of the population in April 2016 was 4,761,865 while the usually resident total was 4,689,921 - a difference of 71,944 or 1.5%.  The usually resident measure is used when analysing topics such as nationality and households and families.
  • A private household comprises either one person living alone or a group of people (not necessarily related) living at the same address with common housekeeping arrangements – that is, sharing at least one meal a day or sharing a living room or a sitting room.  In order to be included in the household, a person had to be a usual resident at the time of the census.  Therefore, visitors to the household on Census Night were excluded, while usual residents temporarily absent (less than 12 months) were included.
  • The term “Aggregate Town Area” or “Urban Area” refers to settlements with a total population of 1,500 or more.  The term “Aggregate Rural Area” refers to the population outside Aggregate Town Areas and includes the population of towns with a population of less than 1,500 persons.
  • In Census 2016, a new “census town” was defined as having a minimum of 50 occupied dwellings, with a maximum distance between any dwelling and the building closest to it of 100 metres, and where there was evidence of an urban centre (shop, school, etc.).  The  proximity criteria for extending existing 2006 Census town boundaries was also amended to include all occupied dwellings within 100 metres of an existing building.  26 new census towns were created for the 2016 Census.
  • 80 Legal Town boundaries were abolished under the Local Government Reform Act 2014.  The Act also provided for the amalgamation of the city and county councils in Limerick and Waterford as well as North Tipperary and South Tipperary County Councils.
  • Population density measures the number of persons occupying a geographical area in proportion to the size of that area.
  • This is the second of eleven thematic reports from Census 2016.  The remaining profile reports will address themes such as: Ireland’s age profile; the homeless; commuting; migration, diversity and health, disability and carers.  The next report due to be published will be the Summary Results Part 2 on 15th June 2017.  The full release schedule is available here.


For further information contact:

Brendan Murphy (+353) 1 895 1329 or Census Enquiries (+353) 1 895 1460

or email

-- ENDS --