Dáil debates

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

Ceisteanna — Questions

Census of Population.

11:00 am

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Question 1: To ask the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on the preliminary census results published in July 2006. [28249/06]

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Question 2: To ask the Taoiseach if he will report on the preliminary census results made available in July 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30673/06]

Photo of Tom KittTom Kitt (Minister of State (Government Chief Whip), Department of An Taoiseach; Minister of State, Department of Defence; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together.

The preliminary report of the 2006 census, carried out on Sunday, 23 April 2006, was published on 19 July 2006. The report was compiled using headcount information compiled by each of the 4,400 enumerators based on the completed census forms for their respective enumeration areas. The following were the highlights of the preliminary census results.

The population of the State increased by 318,000 persons between 2002 and 2006 to reach the highest recorded census level since 1861. The preliminary total for the population enumerated on census night 23 April 2006 was 4,234,925 persons, compared with 3,917,203 in April 2002, representing an increase of 8.1% in four years or 2% per annum. On average there were 46,000 more immigrants than emigrants annually over the 2002-06 period, compared with an annual excess of births over deaths of 33,000.

Looked at from a ten-year perspective, Ireland's population increased at an annual average rate of 1.6% between 1996 and 2006, the largest population growth rate in the EU. The populations of Fingal and Meath both increased by over one fifth between 2002 and 2006. The counties of Kildare, Fingal and Meath accounted for 30% of the national increase in population. Other Leinster counties which showed large increases were Laois, 14%, Wexford, 12.9%, Offaly,10.9%, Westmeath, 10.5%, and Wicklow, 10.2%. Apart from Fingal, there was a relatively modest increase of just 20,000 in the rest of Dublin and, as a result, the overall population grew by just 5.65%, considerably less than the 8.1% increase for the State as a whole. The population of Leitrim grew by almost 12% between 2002 and 2006. This followed a modest increase of 3% between 1996 and 2002, which was remarkable in that it occurred after continuous declines in population over the previous century and a half.

At electoral division, ED, level, Blanchardstown-Blakestown in Fingal recorded the highest increase in intercensal population — up 7,901 to 32,305 in April 2006. Other EDs with population increases in excess of 5,000 during 2002-06 were Navan rural in Meath, up 5,176, in Meath and Balbriggan rural in Fingal, up 5,150.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I thank the Minister of State for his reply. Has he received advice from the CSO on the extent to which the figures might represent an understatement of the reality? I refer here to the anecdotal evidence of which we are all aware regarding enumerators encountering great difficulty in effecting entry to certain housing developments and catching people when they were at home. I was informed by one enumerator with whom I am familiar that she called back on 18 occasions to a particular development. Has the director of the CSO provided an estimate of what might be the possible shortfall?

Photo of Tom KittTom Kitt (Minister of State (Government Chief Whip), Department of An Taoiseach; Minister of State, Department of Defence; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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The simple answer is no. I did not receive any communication from the CSO regarding any possible underestimation of the figures. As the Deputy is aware, the definitive counts will be delivered and announced next year. I may have stated previously on Question Time that there were 4,400 enumerators who were employed to deliver and collect census forms. Each was responsible for an enumeration area, EA, consisting of approximately 350 households. I accept that new problems were encountered on this occasion in the context of gated communities, apartment complexes etc., which made matters more difficult than in the past. The enumerators made contact with householders in the lead-up to census day, 23 April, marked the location of each house or apartment in their EAs and left blank forms and explanatory leaflets, with instructions to complete, to each householder. The process was definitive in nature.

I have not been contacted regarding any underestimations. As the Deputy is aware, this work is detailed and confidential in nature. We look forward to the publication of the definitive figures.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Will the Minister of State seek information on the matter to which I refer? I am not imputing any lack of professionalism or anything else on the part of the CSO, far from it, but I have received direct anecdotal evidence of difficulties being encountered, which did not exist previously, in terms of securing the co-operation of everyone in particular households, gaining access to some communities, contacting people who work irregular hours and enumerators being obliged to make repeated attempts to encourage people to engage with the process.

When is the final report likely to be published? Must we await its publication before we receive a breakdown of different categories such as, for example, the number of non-nationals living here etc.? Is it now settled Government policy that, irrespective of how early the CSO makes its final report, the business of establishing a new boundaries commission to revise the constituencies is not likely to happen between now and the general election?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy's final question is one for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I was just testing the Ceann Comhairle and I am glad to see that, even in the absence of the Taoiseach, he is alert.

Photo of Tom KittTom Kitt (Minister of State (Government Chief Whip), Department of An Taoiseach; Minister of State, Department of Defence; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I can make a brief comment on that matter. On the Deputy's first question, however, I will ask the CSO to communicate directly with him on the anecdotal evidence in his possession regarding issues of access etc. and difficulties that may have arisen.

With regard to the future work of the CSO, I understand that during next year it will issue approximately 16 publications in all.

As the Deputy is probably aware, currently the CSO is carrying out important work relating to disability. Two questions pertaining to disability were introduced for the 2002 census and were refined for the 2006 census. The response to question No. 15 on the census form provided a framework for the CSO to carry out a nationwide survey on disability and the field work for the national disability survey is being carried out in September and October 2006. The sample covers approximately 17,000 individuals and provides one example of the new kind of work being done. The Deputy also referred to nationalities etc. and religion. All other reports pertaining to specific aspects of the CSO's work will be published up to the end of 2007.

With the Ceann Comhairle's permission I wish to reply to the Deputy's question regarding the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the CSO. As the Deputy is aware, the Attorney General has advised that constituencies may only be revised on the basis of the final census figures, which are expected early next year. Constitutionally, the preliminary figures cannot be used to revise constituencies. The Electoral Act 1997 provides for the establishment of a constituency commission upon the publication of the census report that contains the final figures. The Act also sets out the considerations to which a commission must have regard in observing the relevant provisions of the Constitution. The Minister intends to establish such a commission to review and report on Dáil and European constituencies as soon as the relevant census report is published. Under the Act, the commission will be required to report to the Ceann Comhairle as soon as may be, and in any event, within six months of its establishment. The report will then be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

As the Taoiseach has stated, it is not normal practice to publish legal advice and the Minister has no plans to so do. This is the position. It is planned to publish the principal demographic results within one year of the census and to release all publications arising from the 2006 census before the end of 2007. The published tables will be provided simultaneously on the CSO website. As the Deputy is aware, the CSO has an excellent website, www.cso.ie, which keeps everyone updated.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I will not go into detail on the revision of the constituencies following the Minister of State's reply, except to ask whether he agrees that the legality of the situation still leaves a glaring under-representation for my constituency?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is a question for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I ask the Minister of State whether he agrees with this point because it is fairly obvious.

In his reply, the Minister of State cited Fingal, which I represent, as having in effect added the population of Carlow to its population figure since 2002. On that basis, given that they highlight that Swords is the same size as Waterford city, to what use will the figures be put? If one considers a place like Waterford, even its most basic facilities, such as primary schools, post offices and libraries, are a great deal more plentiful than is the case for somewhere like Swords, which has a fast-growing and largely youthful population. To what use will the unofficial figures be put? They are largely indicative of major failures to provide facilities within the context of a significant level of house building. Rush, which is the same size as Kilkenny city, does not yet have a full-time Garda station.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should confine himself to the questions asked.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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This is the question.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Garda stations have nothing to do with the reply.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Will the Minister of State indicate the use to which these figures will be put, as they outline glaring inequalities in terms of the range of facilities available nationwide?

Photo of Tom KittTom Kitt (Minister of State (Government Chief Whip), Department of An Taoiseach; Minister of State, Department of Defence; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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On the first question, the figure for Dublin North is 29,996 and Dublin West is in excess of 30,000. This is extremely relevant to the earlier discussion. As for the use to which these figures will be put, having worked as the Minister of State with responsibility for the CSO, I am conscious — as are others — of the tremendous value these figures offer to legislators, the Government, local authorities and State bodies with regard to future planning. The Deputy has touched on some of the vital areas, such as schools and Garda stations. Another essential area relates to the kind of planning announced by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, regarding the Transport 21 initiative. Its entire approach is to connect communities and the CSO has clearly shown a huge increase in population in the outlying areas of Dublin. At the same time, a slower rate of development can be seen within the city itself. Clear needs will be provided for by these figures.

Future Governments will be obliged to take careful note of the CSO's reports. It is also interesting and encouraging to see a county such as Leitrim expand its population, which tells another story. This has huge implications for our spatial strategy and for Transport 21. The Government has already embraced the figures reflected in the census by planning ahead, as have the social partners. From my perspective, the CSO performs invaluable work across a wide range of areas. It helps the Government of the day and local authorities to plan correctly for the future.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The Minister of State mentioned that the figures for Dublin West breached the constitutional limits, in that they exceed the figure of one Member per 30,000 people. Does he expect a significant variation between the preliminary figures and the final figures? He should bear in mind that in 1947, the then Fianna Fáil Government revised the constituencies based on the preliminary figures so a precedent exists. I believe I heard the Director General of the CSO mention that it did not expect significant variations between the preliminary figures and the final figures, because in this case the computer technology appears to work well. When exactly does the Minister of State expect to publish the final figures? I wish to draw his attention to the fact that in Dublin West, a population of more than 90,000 elects three Deputies in breach of the constitutional limits. However, in Dún Laoghaire, a population which is not much bigger——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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This is a matter for the Minister of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Allow me to finish the point. While its population is not much bigger, it elects five Deputies.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We are moving well away from the question, which pertains to——

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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It is really important.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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——the area of responsibility of the Minister of State.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Does the Minister of State expect a significant variation between the preliminary and final figures and when exactly will the final figures be produced? I understand from the CSO that its method of enumeration is now so good that the difference between the final figures and the preliminary figures could be insignificant. In that case why can the final figures not be made available much sooner? Is the Government delaying their publication in order to deal with the population divergence and breach of the Constitution, as shown by the preliminary figures?

Photo of Tom KittTom Kitt (Minister of State (Government Chief Whip), Department of An Taoiseach; Minister of State, Department of Defence; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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Most definitely, no one is delaying anything in this regard. As I noted earlier, something like 16 publications are planned and promised before the end of 2007. That is the specific commitment made by the CSO. Hence, it has a carefully planned programme of work to undertake. I am not in a position to comment on the differentiation between the preliminary and definitive figures. We must await the outcome to see how it pans out. We may speculate all we wish and I am inclined to agree with the Deputy that in the times in which we live, there may not be much of a discrepancy. However, we must await the outcome.

As legislators, we must also be directed by the Attorney General, and in this case he has advised that constituencies may only be revised on the basis of the final census figures. This would be the advice received whether Fianna Fáil or the Labour Party was in Government. We cannot work with preliminary figures. The Deputy referred to the actions of a previous Government. We are advised by the Attorney General on those lines and this is the advice to which we will adhere.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Trevor Sargent.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Can the Minister of State give us the date of the publication?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I have called Deputy Sargent.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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I asked for the date of the publication of the final figures.

Photo of Tom KittTom Kitt (Minister of State (Government Chief Whip), Department of An Taoiseach; Minister of State, Department of Defence; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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I expect that they will be published early next year, perhaps around April. We have to wait.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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April is not early next year.

Photo of Tom KittTom Kitt (Minister of State (Government Chief Whip), Department of An Taoiseach; Minister of State, Department of Defence; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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It is not late.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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That is pushing it back.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Deputy to allow Deputy Sargent to speak.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Does the Minister of State accept, given that a change will not be made before the election, that it is likely this matter will be dealt with in court?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That does not arise from this question.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I am following on from the previous question. I asked earlier for information about what will happen with the CSO figures. Can I point the Minister of State in the direction of the Fingal Development Board, which has drawn comparisons between the CSO figures for different areas? The board has indicated clearly what it believes the Government's agenda should be if there is to be parity of facilities in Fingal. It has argued that proper planning is necessary if the area is to enjoy the full range of facilities. The Minister for Finance, for example——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy's comments do not arise from the question before the House.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Skerries is bigger than Tullamore.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Sargent, please.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Balbriggan is now bigger than Clonmel, as Deputy Healy is aware.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Chair is speaking. I ask the Deputy to hear the Chair.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I would like to put a suggestion to the Minister of State.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Deputy to hear the Chair first.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I am very happy to hear the Chair.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are four questions to be answered by the Minister of State, Deputy Kitt. The Members who submitted those questions are entitled to hear the answers to them.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Two of them are in my name.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The nature of the Standing Orders of the House dealing with Taoiseach's questions means that six months could pass before the Minister of State answers questions again.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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We meet him every day.

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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He might not get to answer them again.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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In fairness to the Deputies who submitted questions, they are entitled to receive answers today.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Exactly.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We will not ramble all over the place into the responsibilities of other Ministers.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I am very conscious of what the Ceann Comhairle is saying.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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You are not. You are moving away into the areas of other Ministers.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Some 50% of the questions are in my name. I thank that gives me some——

Photo of Tom KittTom Kitt (Minister of State (Government Chief Whip), Department of An Taoiseach; Minister of State, Department of Defence; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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Can I respond to Deputy Sargent, with whom I served at local authority level for some time? The Deputy mentioned Fingal Development Board. I would like to add to what I said earlier in that regard. I am aware that Fingal County Council is one of the most progressive local authorities when it comes to planning for the future. I am conscious of the tremendous work of South Dublin and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county councils, which are using the data that is available to them from the CSO and other sources. Surveys have been conducted on traffic movements, etc. I reiterate that this work is invaluable to development boards like Fingal Development Board. I warmly encourage the work of such boards.