Belfast Telegraph

Ireland losing faith as figures show 14% drop in Catholicism

By Ryan Nugent

Almost half a million people in the Irish Republic now identify as having no religion, with Catholicism down by 14% in the past 25 years.

Statistics from the 2016 Census revealed that only 78% of the population is Catholic compared with 84% in 2011 and 92% in 1991.

Michael Nugent, head of Atheist Ireland, believes that the actual figure for non-religious people in Ireland is significantly higher than the 468,421 cited in the statistics, with a large number of people opting not to state a religion.

The figure increased from 269,800 in 2011, while the number of Catholics dwindled from 3,861,300 to 3,729,100.The percentage of non-religious people trumps that of all the minority religions in Ireland combined. However, the number of Muslims has risen by 29% in the past five years.

There were 126,400 Church of Ireland subscribers, 63,400 Muslims, 62,200 Orthodox, 37,400 Christians, 24,200 Presbyterians and 14,300 Hindus.

Mr Nugent also highlighted the need for government to take note of this change, with the Catholic Church losing a significant grip on Irish society.

His organisation was delighted with the latest figures, particularly given a strong campaign to encourage non-religious people to tick the box on the form last year.

"We had a campaign urging people without a religion to say so and we're quite pleased with the results," Mr Nugent said.

"It's part of a process. The country is becoming more secular, the Catholic Church doesn't have the power it used to have and the politicians and the laws are going to have to catch up with that."

Dublin and Galway were above average when it came to the number of non-Catholics, working out at more than one in three people.

Tipperary, meanwhile had the lowest percentage, with only 12.9% declaring themselves as non-Catholic.

Elsewhere, the average number of children in a family is unchanged at 1.38 and there are 218,817 single parent families, 86% of which are headed by women.

Same-sex civil partnerships were counted for the first time last year, and 4,226 people confirmed they had tied the knot.

But in total, there were 6,034 same-sex couples, 6,884 men and 5,184 women.

Also on the relationship front, the census recorded 103,895 divorcees.

The report also revealed a surge in the number of people seeking Irish passports, with the amount of people recorded as having dual nationality more than doubling in the five years to 2016 to 104,784.

In terms of ethnicity, there was a slight fall in the number of people who identify as Black Irish or Black African to 57,850, and another 6,789 who identify as Other Black.

There are 30,987 travellers living in Ireland, 5% up on 2011. There was a 9% increase in the number of people identifying as ethnically Chinese to 19,447, and a 19% rise in those classing themselves as ethnically Other Asian.

More than 124,000 people failed to answer the question on ethnicity, the report said.

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