Northern Ireland has a healthy population density

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The population of Northern Ireland is now estimated at 1.85 million, higher than ever before.

Earlier this year the census in the Republic of Ireland showed the population on the other side of the border to be 4.75 million.

The total population of the island is now heading towards 7 million people, which is higher than it has been since the early 1840s when the population was 8 million.

The situation on this island, therefore, is similar to Great Britain in that the population is rising steadily for a mixture of reasons – in England, net migration is the main cause of increase, while in Ireland a so-called natural increase is of greater significance.

But in another respect, the position in Northern Ireland and the Republic is quite different from England – we have a much lower population density, so a greater capacity to grow.

The southeast of England, on the other hand, was already one of the most densely populated regions on earth, even before the large influx of immigration over the last decade.

Population density is often considered to be one of the most significant factors when measuring quality of life in a country. It is not hard to see why when you consider what is happening around London, with ruinously high house prices and constant congestion and pressure on infrastructure.

In Northern Ireland, on the other hand, you could say that we are heading towards an optimum population level.

We have a large enough pool of people to appear on the global radar: a population of almost two million will produce the occasional sporting great such as Rory McIlroy and Carl Frampton or cultural giant such as Seamus Heaney or Van Morrison. It is enough people to have a small but vibrant capital city such as Belfast but also small enough to ensure that there is a lot of countryside nearby.

The Province has political and social and economic challenges, but so much to recommend it too as a place to live. A healthy population density is one of the key reasons why.