THE number of Irish people returning home to the country has overtaken that of those emigrating for the first time in nine years.
According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), over 90,000 people immigrated into Ireland in the first four months of this year - nearly one third of whom were returning Irish nationals.
That's compared to around 56,000 people who left the country over the same time period - half of them Irish people.
Overall, 28,400 Irish nationals returned to the Emerald Isle between January and April this year - compared to 28,300 Irish people who left.
Net inward migration among non-Irish nationals increased even more substantially - from 23,200 last year to 33,900 in 2018.
The popularity of Australia amongst emigrants from Ireland continues to fall, with just 4,500 people of all nationalities moving there in the same period - down from 5,300 in 2017 and substantially lower than the peak of 17,400 in 2012.
Migration to the UK was also down by around 700 people from 12,100 to 11,400.
Canada was the only country in the world which saw a rise in migration from Ireland - from 3,700 people to 3,900.
There was a significant rise in the number of people moving to Ireland from the US, up by over one third on the previous year to 7,300.
Immigration from “rest of world” countries - which excludes the UK, EU, US,, Australia and Canada - also increased substantially, from 22,800 to 27,400.
The amount of men leaving Ireland fell by 22.8%, with just 26,400 leaving the country last year, compared to 30,000 women - almost the same number as in 2017.
Cause for optimism?
CSO statistician James Hegarty said it was encouraging to see an increase in Irish people returning home.
He told Newstalk: "There is certainly a large number of people entering the country and now we can see that there is both Irish national and non-Irish nationals.
"If that is an indicator that the country is going well, then that is certainly what we are seeing.
"On the other side then, there are less people leaving the country."
Overall, 49,200 people with third-level education moved to Ireland between January and April, compared to 26,500 who left - a net gain of some 22,700.
A total of 61,200 babies were born in the same period with 30,700 deaths - resulting in a natural population increase of 30,500.
Added to net inward immigration, this brings the total estimated population of Ireland to 4.86 million - 12.2 per cent of whom are non-Irish nationals.