Ireland's population is set to plunge to its lowest point since the 1950s as 500,000 people prepare to emigrate.

Ireland's Labour Party says that data from the tax authorities and the Central Statistics office shows that nearly 500,000 people will flee the country in 2010.

Joan Burton, who is the party's finance spokesperson, says the mass emigration will include everyone from the "breakfast roll man to the children of the wealthy professional classes and returned emigres''.

"Unlike past episodes of emigration which were confined to the poorest under-classes, now figures as diverse as the man with two kids and the 4x4 Jeep who worked in construction, to newly qualified teachers and wealthy professionals are all preparing to emigrate," she said.

She says that cross-party colleagues say that emigration issues is "an increasing feature of constituency work."

And she said that "many parents and grandparents are now using their savings to set up their children in foreign countries".

She also said colleagues from all parties "are now telling me that sorting out emigration issues is becoming an increasing feature of constituency work."

Burton slammed Fianna Fail for the crisis saying that "once again, in a time of crisis, the sole response of a FF government to the best-educated generation of people we have ever had was to plead with them to get the boat and the plane and just leave."

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