For the first time since 1995 more people left Ireland than moved here, according to new figures.

The Central Statistics Office says the number of emigrants from Ireland in the year to April is estimated to have grown by over 40%, from 45,300 to 65,100.

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At the same time the number of immigrants continued to decline, falling from 83,800 to 57,300.

Today's CSO figures also reveal that of the 65,100 people who emigrated, East European nationals were the largest group, accounting for 30,100.

Irish nationals were the second-largest group at 18,400.

Immigration of all non-Irish people showed a decline with those from 12 EU states, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania, showing the biggest fall from 33,700 in April 2008 to 13,500 in April 2009 - a decline of 20,200.

The CSO also says that the number of births reached a new high of 74,500 in the year to April - the highest growth since 1896.

The number of deaths was 29,400, which resulted in 'strong' natural growth of 45,100 for the year to April 2009.

Ireland's population estimate in April 2009 was 4.46m.

Earlier, Damien English TD, Fine Gael Labour Affairs Spokesman, warned that there are growing fears that a lost generation of Irish youth are now becoming a reality.

For the first time in a generation Ireland is again a net exporter
of people, as a combination of rising unemployment and falling job levels drives people abroad.'