Reuters International

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland has registered its first year of net immigration since 2009, statistics showed on Tuesday, as the rate of Irish nationals leaving Europe's fastest growing economy fell sharply.

Net immigration to Ireland peaked at over 100,000 at the height of its housing boom in 2008, but the country lost around 30,000 people per year during its 2010-2013 EU-IMF bailout.

Migration added 3,000 people to Ireland's population in the year to April 2016, the first increase in seven years, the central statistics office said in an annual release.

Net emigration of Irish nationals fell to 10,700 from 23,200 the previous year, while net immigration by non-Irish nationals increased to 13,800 from 11,600.

Emigration has been an emotive issue since the Great Famine of the 1800s when around one million people fled. Large numbers of Irish graduates emigrated to England in the 1980s and 1990s before the economy took off in the early years of the century.

Ireland's economy is forecast to grow faster than any other in Europe for the third straight year in 2016, with the government forecasting gross domestic product to grow by 3.4 percent.

The unemployment rate has fallen to 8 percent from 15 percent since 2012.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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