120. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the CSO was misrecording personal details when inputting census returns, in particular surnames and personal names which contained fadas; if such practices will cease; and the steps he will take to correct the recorded data to date. (Question 15800/18 asked on 17 Apr 2018)
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Joe McHugh) (Deputy Joe McHugh): CSO collects first names and surnames on census questionnaires to ensure that the full population is counted on the night of the census and to assist census enumerators in checking that all relevant questions have been answered on the census forms.
It is incorrect to assert that CSO misrecorded personal details in processing the census returns. CSO accurately records an image of every census questionnaire received to facilitate data processing and also securely stores the handwritten forms.
These will be made available to the public in line with the 100 year rule detailed in Section 35 of the Statistics Act 1993.
Following the recording of the form image, the first names and surnames on the questionnaires were captured using Optimal Character Recognition (OCR) software. The OCR software used to capture the names did not recognise characters such as numbers, fadas, apostrophes and hyphens and consequently these do not appear in the captured name data. This was appropriate for the accurate and efficient processing of the census data.
For Census 2021 CSO will continue to accurately record the form images, store the returned questionnaires in line with the relevant legislation and utilise OCR software to facilitate the capture of all handwritten information including names.
As part of its objective to modernise its statistical processes, CSO is committed to developing a platform for online data collection with general applicability within CSO. This would significantly improve the office’s capacity to capture a broader range of characters including fadas in future surveys and censuses post 2021.