ECONOMIST Alan Mitchell (pictured) manages the Fermanagh Omagh Smart Region pilot programme which gathers statistical information to help policy and business decision makers. The aim of the Smart Region is to use technology to capture, analyse and manage data to improve economic, social and environmental impact. Here, he outlines that emigration is slowing but the district is struggling to re-attract the young people who left.

An extra 600 people are living in Fermanagh and Omagh since last year, according to the latest data (for 2014) from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. The district’s population now totals 115,000.

There were 1,452 births in the district and 939 deaths in 2014. Together, the net sum – 513 – is referred to as the ‘natural change’. The remaining growth is attributable to net migration. Fermanagh and Omagh slipped into net out-migration for the first time in at least 15 years in 2013. This trend has now reversed, with a net in-flow of 162 people from outside the district.

In the last year, 1,502 people immigrated into the district and 1,306 emigrated.

Fermanagh and Omagh’s population growth of 0.5 per cent in a year is comparable to that experienced in Belfast and what a football fan may refer to as a ‘Europa League’ position on a table ranking the 11 local government districts. Indeed, at a macro level, the number of people leaving Northern Ireland is at its lowest in five years.

Concerns over an ageing population and a net out-flow of migrants has featured prominently in Smart Region analysis. This data will alleviate fears of a sustained net out-flow of people from the district in the short term. The underlying issue of an ageing population remains. The data only further supports the idea that the district is struggling to re-attract young people who leave the district.

w Alan’s Smart Stats: “Castle Archdale is the most visited ‘visitor attraction’ in Fermanagh and Omagh, with 190,000 visitors on average per annum. Belleek Pottery and the Ulster American Folk Park follow, with 172,600 visitors and 139,500 visitors respectively. Devenish Island, with 41,700 visitors, comes in fourth.”