Census 2021 set to include questions on religion and ethnicity

Additional budget likely to facilitate formulation and testing of new areas of inquiry

The next census, in 2021, will have a sufficient budget to allow new questions, more than likely on religion and ethnicity.

Census 2016 was unchanged from the previous one in 2011, save for one question recognising the legal status of same-sex marriage.

The reason for a “no change” census was that the Central Statistics Office did not have the resources or budget to conduct a public consultation or test new questions when preparing for the nationwide exercise. It attributed the lack of funds to the recession and cutbacks.

Paper-based census

The Government announced on Wednesday there will be a census in 2021 and, despite advances in technology, it will be a paper-based census. The CSO is of the opinion that paper returns still remain the most reliable.


To include new questions, pilot surveys are conducted involving about 12,000 dwellings.

There has been criticism that the question on religion in 2016 was too binary. People filling in the form were asked what was their religion. There are five religions stated, including Catholic and Church of Ireland. There were a further two choices, another religion (to be written in) or no religion.

Some critics of that section said it should make a distinction between those practicing a religion and those who have lapsed or no longer practice a religion,

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times