The Irish media landscape, like Marion Finnucane’s show on Radio 1, is full of know-it-all types who spout truisms devoid of any factual bases. Regularly, often in discussions about the number of local authorities or health facilities, someone will declare “… and of course Ireland has a smaller population than Greater Manchester”. Everyone will demur to this received wisdom.
A cursory look at the figures shows it’s nonsense. In the last census in 2016, the population of the Republic of Ireland was 4.76M. The same year, the population of Greater Manchester was estimated to be 2.78M.
Sometimes, often on Ivan Yeates’ show on Today FM, the truism becomes “Ireland has a similar population to Birmingham”. In 2016, the population of Birmingham was estimated at 1.12M, smaller than Dublin. In 2014, the entire West Midlands, including Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton had an estimated population of 2.81M. It’s a fraction more than Greater Manchester but a lot less than little old Ireland’s 4.76M.
As far as I can tell, the population of Ireland has never been smaller than that of Greater Manchester. In 1961, the Irish population dropped to 2.82M, its lowest point since such records began. The same year, the boroughs which form Greater Manchester had 2.70M inhabitants.
It’s not true now, and never was true. Repeating it does not make it true.