Population in northwest Mayo in decline - census
One of the most picturesque parts of Ireland has hit a population down curve, according to latest statistical studies.
Co Mayo has been hit by a drift away towards more the greater Dublin area.
Now the north-western section of the county which covers 40 per cent of the land is home to only 20 per cent of the people who live in Mayo. That makes it the only part of Ireland to be have run into a demographical crisis during the Celtic Tiger.
Preliminary indications from this year's national Census - the head count was delay for 12 months by last year's foot-and-mouth disease alert - are that, overall, Mayo recorded a relatively healthy population increase of a little under 6,000, with immigration levels on course.
But in the north west of the county, the story was different - and that led to a grim outlook for the future today.
Archaeology Professor Seamus Caulfield said: "If this level of numerical decline continues, then the area involved will be entirely deserted by the end of this century.
"If any other species was declining at the rate of the human species in this region, there would be an outcry."
A study of the census returns shows up a net population loss in the area of more than 1,100 since the previous nationwide exercise in 1996, and over a 16-year period, some 3,600 people have drifted away.
Professor Caulfield said: "This means we now have two distinct Mayos emerging within the county. In percentage terms, one part of the county is growing by about 1 per cent a year, while the other part is declining at the same rate."