Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for giving me time to talk about helping the census enumerators. All our homes were recently visited by the helpful census enumerators who delivered and collected our census forms and assisted, where necessary, in the completion of the form. Members of the public constantly meet with requests from the public service for the completion of forms and requests for information. Most of us call this bureaucracy.
Unfortunately, this is another classic example of where the bureaucrats in their zeal to collect information let slip a unique public relations opportunity. All that was required was a one or two page leaflet inserted with the census form stating:
Thank you, householder for your help five years ago — we are here again looking for your assistance. I know you are interested in the results of the last census and on the following two pages we set out a summary of the national results and of the count in respect of your county.
We are sorry for asking for the exact address of your residence, your place of employment and previous residence. We do not actually use this information and we will not request it in future.
The reason we ask questions about the Irish language — and you will see the trend here from the summary of the last five census — and not about modern European languages is because we have not thought about it and did not think these matters were important enough up to now.
I am sure you are curious about why we need to know the approximate mileage on the outward journey to your place of occupation. The reason for this is simple: it is that we asked this question in the previous census also. If we explained better the reasons behind the questions and how we make use of, and disseminate this information, would you mind if we added another ten questions to the next census in ten years' time? Please let the enumerator have your comments.
Finally, thank you for your continuing co-operation.
The information to provide the foregoing is already available, the distribution system is in place and the cost of paper and ink for 700,000 households or so could not cost much more than £70,000. It would be a more than worthwhile exercise on behalf of the public service in their relations with the citizens of the nation, their employers. I might add that it would not be beyond the with of men to put in some special questions for interested parties who would be willing to pay for the exact type of answers that the census can provide. If this was approached properly and sensitively, the cost to the State of the whole census operation could be reduced to almost nothing.