Today is census day: a chance to tell Ireland’s story in data
Today is census day in Ireland!
Usually, the green and white form is given to households once every five years. However, the last one took place in 2016 and the planned census in 2021 was delayed while the country was in lockdown.
Completing the form is a legal requirement and Cormac Halpin, senior statistician for the CSO, says the data he provides is essential for the government to allocate resources effectively:
“We will have a huge volume of data when we get all the census forms back,” he said. The Anton Savage Show.
“They will give us a lot of information about our society, about our economy, about our country.
“This data is used for decision-making, for planning, for investment.
“So a lot of things like decisions where to locate schools, where to build roads, where health services are, things that are very important like constituency boundaries, the number of TDs – it’s all in the constitution, you need census data to decide. .
“But it’s not just public sector decision makers who use this, we know that at least one major supermarket chain uses census data to decide where to locate its supermarkets.
“Your local community groups can also use census data to profile their area and lobby for things like parks and playgrounds.”
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A chance to write history
Historians love census data because it tells them so much about how people lived their lives. Tragically, however, the entirety of 19th century Ireland’s census responses caught fire when the Four Courts came under attack during the Civil War.
The first census that people can use to look for clues about their ancestry is from 1901:
“I think people are quite familiar with the census as it provides a snapshot of the country at a given time to give a kind of narrative of Ireland over time and the census also has great genealogical value,” continued Mr Halpin.
“People are probably familiar with the 1901 and 1911 censuses and see the census forms of famous people and perhaps also the forms of their ancestors.”
The census has also documented Ireland’s complex and evolving relationship with organized religion and Mr Halpin says it is this question on the form that has generated the most public interest:
“We had a public consultation in 2017 where we asked people to write to us and tell us what they want to see in the next census,” he said.
“And we received over a hundred different submissions on the issue of religion. Some people asked why we had a question on religion in the census.
“Some people and organizations wanted us to withhold the issue. Other people asked us to ask about religious practice.
“And some people, I guess, were theologians, were saying what’s on the census form aren’t religions – they’re denominations.”
Anyone needing help filling in the census can call a helpline between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. today on the freephone number 0818 2022 04.
Main image: A census form is seen in 2016. Photo by: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie