Ireland, it used to be said, was not only a Catholic country, but a nation whose people were overwhelmingly of ancient Celtic stock. There were the horse-Protestants, of course, making up the Ascendancy-class, but these were never more than five-to-seven percent of the population and most of them left after independence. And then, of course, there were the Ulster Protestants, descended for the most part from seventeenth-century Scottish and English settlers. But the less said about them, the better.
What mattered was the idea of the country as ethnically, culturally and religiously homogenous – an exaggeration of the truth made easier to accept by the fact of partition.
But that was then. According to newly-published figures from the Central Statistics Office in Dublin, the population of the Republic is soaring, with most of the increase directly attributable to immigration.