In the late 1980s around 65 per cent of the immigrants coming to Ireland were returning Irish emigrants. During the 1990s and 2000s the share of returning Irish dropped significantly and between 2006 and 2008 Irish immigrants made up only 18 per cent of the inflow. As the share of returning Irish migrants continued to fall, non-EU migrants came to dominate the flows, constituting more than half of all non-Irish immigrants arriving in Ireland between 2001 and 2004.
Since the accession of ten new EU member states in 2004
The Immigrant Population in Ireland
Census 2006 provides a great deal of previously unavailable information on non-Irish nationals resident in Ireland. The Table compares the number and percentage of persons usually resident (i.e. all persons present on census night plus those who are usually resident but are absent for a period less than 3 months) in Ireland in 2002 and 2006 classified by nationality. The percentage of persons with non-Irish nationality increased significantly from 6 per cent to 10 per cent.
Applications for Asylum by Nationality 2004 and 2008
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Source: Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner
The most significant increase was seen in the EU category, which accounted for 2.5 per cent of persons enumerated in 2002 and 7 per cent in 2006. In line with recent trends in immigration flows this increase in the proportion of EU nationals was mainly driven by migrants from the 10 EU States that acceded in 2004: 120.500 or almost 3 per cent of the population enumerated on Census night held nationality of one of the EU10 States.
The majority of non-Irish nationals usually resident in Ireland are in the 25-44 age group (52 per cent). Non-Irish nationals also have a slightly higher representation in the 15-24 age group than Irish nationals (18 per cent and 15 per cent respectively). Census 2006 indicated that Ireland is still quite an ethnically homogenous country. Almost 95 per cent of those who answered the nationality question indicated their ethnicity was White, while Black, Asian and other ethnicities accounted for just 1 per cent each. Of the respondents of Irish nationality, 98 per cent identified their own ethnicity as White, while this was the case only for 71 per cent of non-Irish respondents.
The vast majority of non-Irish nationals in Ireland are first-generation, i.e. were born outside of the country. Census 2006 indicated that just 5 per cent of non-Irish nationals enumerated were born in Ireland.
Irish nationals are also quite homogenous religiously: the vast majority enumerated identified themselves as Catholic. Non-Irish nationals are much more religiously diverse: just over half are Catholic, 11 per cent are Church of Ireland, Protestant, Presbyterian, or Methodist, and 5 per cent are Muslim. A much higher percentage of non-Irish than Irish nationals claim to have no religion (16 per cent and 3 per cent respectively).