Today is census day in Ireland!
Usually the green and white form is delivered to households once every five years. However, the last one took place in 2016 and the census due in 2021 was delayed while the nation was in lockdown.
Completing the form is a legal requirement and Cormac Halpin, Senior Statistician for the CSO, says the data it provides is essential for the Government to allocate resources effectively:
“We’ll get a huge volume of data when we get all the census forms back in,” he told The Anton Savage Show.
“They’ll give us a vast amount of information about our society, about our economy, about our country.
“That data is used for decision making, for planning, for investment.
“So lots of things like the decisions where to locate schools, where to build roads, where health services are located, things that are very important like constituency boundaries, the number of TDs - it’s all in the constitution it requires census data to decide on.
“But it’s not just decision makers of the public sector that use this, we know that at least one major supermarket chain uses census data to decide where to locate their supermarkets.
“Your local community groups as well can use census data to show the profile of their area and lobby for things like parks and playgrounds.”
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A chance to make history
Historians love census data because it reveals so much to them about the way people lived their lives. Tragically, however, the entirety of Ireland’s census responses from the 19th century went up in flames when the Four Courts was attacked during the Civil War.
The earliest census people can use to look for clues about their ancestors is the one from 1901:
“I think people are quite familiar with the census as providing a snapshot of the country at a point in time to kind of give a narrative of Ireland over time and there’s great genealogical value in the census as well,” Mr Halpin continued.
“People are probably familiar with the 1901 and 1911 censuses and seeing famous people’s census forms and maybe their ancestors' forms as well.”
The census has also documented Ireland’s complex and evolving relationship with organised religion and Mr Halpin says it is this question on the form that provoked the most interest from the public:
“We had a public consultation in 2017 where we asked people to write in to us and tell us what they want to see in the next census,” he said.
“And we got over a hundred different submissions on the religion question. Some people were asking why we had a religion question in the census.
“Some people and organisations wanted us to retain the question. Other people asked us to ask about religious practice.
“And some people I assume were theologians, were saying that what is on the census form aren’t religions - they’re denominations.”
Anyone who needs help filling out the census can call a helpline between 11am and 6pm today on freephone, 0818 2022 04.
Main image: A Census form is seen in 2016. Picture by: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie