Ireland's women are the most fertile in Europe with births soaring to their highest level in over 25 years.
Some 71,389 babies were born in Ireland in 2007, almost 6,000 more than the previous year -- and higher than at any time since 1981.
And with deaths also down as people lived longer, the Irish population soared to its highest level since 1862, reaching 4.339 million, the latest report from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) reveals.
Ireland has the highest fertility rate in the European Union with an average of 2.05 children per woman, although this still wouldn't be enough for the population to replace itself in the long run if it wasn't for immigration.
The number of multiple births has almost doubled since the mid-1990s as Ireland's population boomed. Latest figures show more than 1,100 sets of twins were delivered in 2007, with 26 sets of triplets and one set of quadruplets born. The rate has steadily grown since just 574 sets of twins and 13 sets of triplets arrived in 1993.
Nearly one-in-five births in Ireland was to immigrants, the figures reveal.
After Ireland, France has the highest fertility rate at 1.98, followed by 1.92 in the UK and just 1.3 in Poland.
One-in-three births is now outside marriage and almost 44pc of first-time mothers were unmarried. Over half the babies born in Limerick were to single mothers. The figure was 49.6pc in Cork.
The Iona Institute said the figures highlighted the urgent need for the government to promote marriage if it was really interested in child welfare.
"Study after study highlights the benefits of marriage, especially for children, but also for adults. Ideally, children should be raised by a loving mother and father and marriage provides the best chance of this taking place," said Iona Institute director David Quinn.
One US study showed the poverty rate there could have been reduced by between 20 and 30pc if marriage rates had stayed at 1970 levels, he said.
August is the most popular month to be born, with significantly more births in the second half of the year than in the first, the CSO figures reveal.
They also show that men outnumber women in Ireland, and this is true at nearly every stage of life, including birth. The trend only starts to reverse when people reach old age.
There were 28,117 deaths in 2007 and the standardised death rate was 6.01 per 1,000 of the population in Ireland, which is below the EU rate, but higher than in the UK.
Source Irish Independent