Portrait of a population growing in diversity


THE LATEST analysis of Census 2011 paints a picture of an increasingly diverse population with a significant growth in people who say they have no religion, while also recording the largest congregation of Catholics since records began.

The research by the Central Statistics Office highlights a sharp rise in unemployment among Travellers, as well as high rates of disability and ill health.

Just five religions were mentioned in the 1961 census but Census 2011 refers to more than 20, and also has a category for “other religions”, which was ticked by 56,558 people.

It shows that the proportion of the population who were Catholic reached its lowest point last year at 84.2 per cent, but its congregation of 3.86 million people was never higher.

This was explained by the number of Catholic immigrants living here. Eight per cent of the Catholic population were non-Irish last year. Polish people accounted for the biggest group, with 110,410 Catholics, followed by the UK with 49,761.

The research also noted a fourfold increase, over a 20-year period, in people who said they had no religion, were atheists or agnostics.

Some 277,237 people fell into this category last year. The group included 14,769 children of primary school age and 14,478 of secondary school age. Some 4,690 babies were categorised by their parents as having no religion.

The census noted the rise in the number of Muslims in this State, from 0.1 per cent of the population in 1991 to 1.1 per cent – or 49,204 people – last year.

There was a 6 per cent increase in Church of Ireland members in the past five years and a tenfold increase in Hindus since 1991.

Apostolic and Pentecostal members also saw their numbers swelling. There were 8,116 members in 2006 but that rose to 14,043 last year. Over 60 per cent of those had African ethnicity.

The CSO also examined the findings about Travellers in more detail and noted a sharp increase in unemployment. It rose from almost 75 per cent in 2006 to more than 84 per cent last year.

There were 29,573 Travellers living here in April 2011, accounting for 0.6 per cent of the population. Co Galway had the highest number of Travellers, with 2,476 people, followed by south Dublin with 2,216. Co Waterford had the smallest number, with just 152 enumerated.

Almost one in three Traveller households was living in mobile or temporary accommodation with no sewerage facilities.

The education of seven out of 10 Travellers ended at primary school, while just 1 per cent said they had completed third level. This compares with 30.7 per cent of the general population, excluding Travellers.

Rates of ill-health were also high among Travellers, with 17.5 per cent reporting one or more disabilities, compared with 13 per cent of the general population.

Martin Collins, spokesman for the Pavee Point Travellers’ rights centre, said the figures were not surprising. “Education is improving and that’s a result of Traveller organisations continually trying to press home the value and need for education,” he said.

CSO senior statistician Deirdre Cullen encouraged people to visit cso.ie, whose interactive tables let you focus on areas of interest and create your own analysis tables.

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