Madam, - The Northern Secretary's article in your edition of December 19th on the census figures hits on a point too often ignored in the furore about the "percentage gap" between the two communities in Northern Ireland.

The real issue about the census is not how many Catholics and Protestants there are in Northern Ireland but how they are going to live together. Equally important is how we in the Republic are going to relate to both communities. This "gap" is far more important and should cause far more concern than the respective percentages for the two communities. Worryingly, while the census gap between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland may be narrowing, all the evidence is that the social gap is widening.

Inter-community and north-south relations urgently need to be strengthened at a community level if this gap is to be narrowed. - Yours, etc.,

TONY KENNEDY, Chief Executive, Co-Operation Ireland, Herbert Place, Dublin 2.