Quantitative Context: How big is Ireland?

Let’s talk about population first. The population of the island of Ireland is about 6 million persons. About 4.25 million of them live in the Republic of Ireland (the twenty-six counties). For the rest of this post, “Ireland” means the entire Ireland: Northern Ireland and the Republic (that is, all thirty-two counties).

Since so many readers of this blog are American, I’ll use US states for comparison. Illinois has a bit more than double the population of the island of Ireland.

The states that have approximately the same population as Ireland? Indiana, Arizona, Tennessee and Missouri.

For those who prefer a global perspective, the following countries have approximately the same population as the island of Ireland: Libya, Paraguay, Jordan and Sierra Leone. The twenty-six counties of the Republic are comparable to the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand and Lebanon.

Now let’s turn to the size of the island — the total area, including inland water. Ireland’s shores enclose about 33 thousand square miles (or 85 thousand km²). Illinois a bit less than twice the area of Ireland.
Illinois residents, that means that you can assume that the density of Ireland is about the same as the density of Ireland. In fact, I’d guess that the distribution of population is similar, too, with one dominant population center (Dublin) and a number of much smaller cities (Belfast – half the size of Dublin at best, Cork, Limerick, Galway). Not to mention the large regions of sparsely inhabited, agricultural land. (The graphic above is not to scale, of course.)

The US state of Indiana is not much larger than the island of Ireland, while South Carolina is smaller. West Virginia has a bit less area than the 26 counties that comprise the Republic of Ireland.

Panama and the United Arab Emirates have territories about the size of Ireland, with Sierra Leone and Portugal in the same league.

Finally, Dublin. Dublin’s urban area includes between 1.5 and 1.7 million residents, and the city proper has over one-half million residents.

The Dublin metro area covers about 350 square miles. It doesn’t have the sprawling suburbs of many cities its size (yet), so I’m going to compare this figure with the population within the official borders of other cities. I’m going for a comparison with how it feels to live in a city of Dublin’s population. To calibrate your senses, start with Chicago: 2.8 million within the city limits, and about 9 million (about 1.5 times the population of Ireland) in the metro area from the Indiana border to Kenosha.

Some American cities with city populations a bit smaller than Dublin’s metro population: Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and Detriot.

If we’re directly comparing metro areas, then we get a different list, including Las Vegas, Columbus, and San Antonio (again). The following metro areas have significantly fewer residents than Dublin: Indianapolis, Austin, Milwaukee, and Nashville. All of these cities have a larger area than Dublin. (I must admit that direct comparisons are difficult for metro areas.)

European cities that are similar to Dublin in metro population include Zurich, Dresden, Antwerp, Zagreb, Helsinki, Bilbao, Toulouse and Odessa. Of these, Helsinki and Dresden are closest in the balance between metro and urban areas.

6 Comments to “Quantitative Context: How big is Ireland?”

  1. Doug said...
    6 December 2007

    Wow – that would be Will at his best (and worst) in terms of weird research that is somewhat interesting, but definitely thorough…..i am not sure what else to say, other than I want to go to Zurich.

  2. Anonymous said...
    11 June 2008

    I am Russain and I went to Ireland a month ago on vacation, it is the most beautiful country i have ever been to and the people are so friendly.

  3. Anonymous said...
    12 June 2008

    Irelands tiny

  4. kiddo said...
    2 September 2008

    so how big is it in size not population?

  5. Lorraine Matuschak said...
    21 November 2008

    Im from Ireland but living in the States and I want to go home!!!!

  6. bob said...
    14 January 2009