Ireland remains overwhelmingly Catholic

IRELAND REMAINS the overwhelmingly Catholic country of the English-speaking world, according to results of the April 2011 census…

IRELAND REMAINS the overwhelmingly Catholic country of the English-speaking world, according to results of the April 2011 census, published yesterday. Over 84 per cent of people in the Republic, or 3.86 million, described themselves as Roman Catholic in that census.

It may represent a drop from the 86.8 per cent of the population who did so in the 2006 census but, in actual terms, the 2011 figure is an increase of 179,889, or 4.9 per cent, on the 2006 figure.

This anomaly, of an increase in numbers and percentage but a drop overall, is because the general population of the Republic increased by 348,404, to 4.58 million, since 2006.

The nearest in numbers to Catholics are those who declared themselves as having “no religion” last April. They now number 269,800, an increase of 44.8 per cent on the 2006 figure. A further 72,914 did not state their religion, compared to the 70,322 “not stated” figure for 2006.


Among those who did declare themselves last year the next largest grouping to those with “no religion” are members of the Church of Ireland who now number 129,039, an increase of 6.4 per cent on their 121,229 figure in 2006. Presbyterian numbers are up by 4.5 per cent to 24,600 as are Jehovah’s Witnesses, by 19.4 per cent to 6,149.

Far and away the most significant non-Christian religion in Ireland today is Islam. Members of Ireland’s Muslim community now number 49,204, an increase of 51.2 per cent on the 32,539 figure in 2006.

The number of Hindus has grown by 75.7 per cent to 10,688 and Buddhists by 33.6 per cent to 8,703. The decline in Ireland’s Jewish population also appears to have been arrested. It has experienced a marginal 2.2 per cent increase from 1,930 in 2006 to 1,984 last April.

Some Christian denominations have experienced spectacular growth in Ireland since 2006, though from a low base. Most impressive was the 117.4 per cent growth in Orthodox Christians in Ireland, from 20,798 in 2006 to 45,223 last April. Apostolic or Pentcostal Christians grew by 73 per cent since 2006, from 8,116 to 14,043 last April.

In all of this increasing and multiplying there has been one surprising fall. The Methodist Church in Ireland, traditionally one of the four main churches on the island, has experienced a spectacular drop of 43.7 per cent in the Republic, from 12,160 in 2006 to 6,842 last April.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times