Westmeath's population is the highest it’s been in more than 150 years, preliminary Census figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) have revealed. However, the figures have also revealed a significant increase in the number of rural communities experiencing population decline.
On the night of the Census on April 24, Westmeath's population was recorded as 88,396, an increase of 2,232 (2.6%) since 2011. Nationally, the country’s population has increased by 3.7% or 169,724 people, and the population now stands at 4.7m. The new figures also revealed that in Westmeath there are slightly fewer males than females, at 986 to 1,000.
Mullingar Rural Area, which comprises 54 of Westmeath's 106 Electoral Districts (EDs), saw its population rise by 2.7% from 46,754 in 2011 to 48,017. Mullingar North Urban rose by 5.3% - double the county average - to 5,599, while Mullingar South Urban rose by 7% to 4,387 (see table for each EDs results).
The rate of population growth locally between the census nights in 2011 and 2016 was significantly slower than the preceding five years, when the number of people living in Westmeath rose by 8.5%.
While eight electoral districts (ED) recorded population growths of some 30% in the 2011 census, Ballinalough ED (21.6%) recorded the biggest increase this year, followed by Kilcumny (19.5%), Killinure (14.8%), Rathowen (14.2%) and Moydrum (11.9%).
On the other end of the scale, Ballinalack ED (-15.6%) recorded the biggest proportional population drop, followed by Streete (-11.9%) and Kilcumreragh (-10.9%). More worryingly, the number of Westmeath's 106 EDs that recorded population declines doubled from 23 to 46 between 2011 and 2016 (see table). In the Ballymore Rural Area, while overall the population remained stable, thanks to a 10% increase in the village of Ballymore, seven of its eight EDs recorded population drops, compared to two in 2011.
The Census also revealed that there are 4,334 vacant dwellings in Westmeath, a vacancy rate of 11.6%, which is just below the national vacancy rate of 12.8%, and 13% lower than in 2011, when there were 4,979 vacant properties locally. The Census figures also revealed that Westmeath experienced a net outflow of people of 1,530 between 2011 and 2016.