‘Sole comparable body of evidence essential for NW region to prosper’

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Derry City & Strabane District Council’s top number cruncher has said it is vital Derry has a single comparable body of socio-economic data with which to plot the city’s future development.

Hugh McNickle, DC&SDC’s lead statistician, made the argument in a response to a NI Statistics & Research Agency consultation prior to the landmark 2021 Census, stating that good data was essential to the North West’s future prospects.

“The NW of NI and Ireland, the area incorporating DC&SDC and Donegal County Council (DCC) is very much a unique, cross border region in terms of population and economic/social viability,” he stated.

“For this region to prosper, it is essential that a single and comparable body of evidence is made available detailing the socio-economic conditions pertinent to this north west region,” he continued.

Mr. Nickle’s draft response was endorsed by members of DC&SDC’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee on Tuesday.

The statistician, who crunched the numbers for the Council in support of its City Deal and its Strategic Growth Plan, updated the committee on a number of key changes taking place ahead of the 2021 household survey.

One of the main developments since the 2011 census has been the creation of new local Government Districts, like DC&SDC, for instance, and new District Electoral Areas, like The Moor, Faughan and Ballyarnett, for example, in 2014.

Mr. Nickle explained how this had created a conundrum for NISRA who now need to choose between either mapping Super Output Areas (SOA) - little geographical chunks of Derry used for Census compilation - against the old Derry City Council administrative units or against the new DC&DSC ones.

You can’t have both as releasing the two data sets would enable a form of jigsaw identification whereby a person’s gender, religion or ethnicity might possibly be identified by overlaying two geographies on top of one another, breaching their privacy rights.

Mr. Nickle, in his report to the committee demonstrated how a single household in Derry could become identifiable when SOA geographies were overlaidon Ward geographies.

“It now becomes clear, that when differing geographies, such as SOA and Electoral Wards are overlaid upon each other, that small pockets of the population can become discoverable and that Census data has the potential to be disclosive,” he stated.

His recommendation that DC&SDC respond to NISRA and ask it to map the SOAs onto the newer post-2014 administrative units was fully endorsed by the committee.