Ireland by the numbers – Census 2022

A changing country

Sir, – Over a million (or one in every five) Irish people either said they have no religion (14 per cent) or declined to state a religion (7 per cent) in last year’s census. In reality, the evidence of day to day life, including church attendances, indicates that far more than one in five Irish people are not religious.

This continues a consistent pattern of Irish society becoming more pluralist, and the need for a secular state to protect everyone’s rights. In particular, we must remove church control of State-funded schools, and allow conscientious atheists to become president, judge, or taoiseach.

In last year’s census, 740,000 people (14.4 per cent ) either ticked “no religion” or wrote in atheist or agnostic. This is up from 480,000 in 2016.

Another 345,000 people (6.7 per cent) declined to answer the religion question. Some of these might be religious, but not want to be identified as religious, but certainly not all of them.


The figure for Roman Catholics has dipped to 69 per cent, despite a leading question that artificially inflates the number of religious responses by asking “What is your religion, if any?” instead of the more neutral “Do you have a religion?” or the more useful “Do you practise a religion?”

Ireland is no longer a Catholic country. We are now a pluralist country, gradually changing laws and practices imposed when we were a Catholic country. – Yours, etc,




Human Rights Officer,

Atheist Ireland,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – “Number of Catholics in the State falls by 10% as overall population ages” (News, May 31st): no, the proportion of Catholics in the State falls by 10 percentage points. – Yours, etc,



Co Cavan.

Sir, – Media reporting of the 2022 census data has given a lot of attention to the decline in numbers of Catholics compared with the previous census in 2016. The decline of 10 percentage points in those identifying as Catholics, between the two censuses, has received particular attention.

The impression conveyed by such reporting is that Catholics are continuing to abandon their religion in droves.

Much as some in the media might like this to be the case, the truth is likely to be a lot more mundane.

As the population is now about 5.1 million, a drop of 10 percentage points might have been expected to amount to a drop of more than 500,000 in the number of Catholics, but the actual decline was 181,000, not much more than one-third of the expected number.

Moreover, most of those 181,000 can be accounted for by deaths from 2017 to 2022 inclusive – data from the CSO show that were about 193,000 deaths, and most of these would have been older people, and therefore highly likely to be Catholics. The population is rising in Ireland, mainly because of immigration. Immigrants are, for the most part, younger (so they have much lower death rates) and non-Catholic. That is the plausible explanation for these census figures – lower mortality rates and higher rates of population increase among non-Catholics.

It probably has little or nothing to do with Catholics no longer identifying themselves as such on the census form. – Yours, etc,



Co Waterford.

Sir, – It was enjoyable and informative to read your coverage some of the “big” findings from Census 2022 . The size and composition of our diverse and ageing population, the reducing numbers identifying as Catholic, the enormous increase in rent paid, declining home ownership, and a third of our workforce working at least some or part of their week from home were interesting and not unexpected findings. These findings will inform future policy on health and social care, transport, infrastructure, housing, etc.

Unfortunately, the census did not collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity. This was a missed opportunity to measure the size of these populations and provide quality data to inform future policy direction.

As we enter Pride month, I would encourage those planning the next census to include well-constructed questions on gender identity and sexual orientation. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – One criticism of the census – we still don’t know what citizenship 40 per cent of our non-Irish residents possess. Couldn’t the census have expanded the question to give us a better answer? – Yours, etc,



Co Wexford.

Sir, – In a trend only measurable since the previous census, in 2016, the amount of Catholics in Dublin has fallen to only 53 per cent with the proportion declaring “no religion” rising. Meanwhile, Mayo remains the most fervently Catholic county, with 80 per cent of the county identifying in this way. Is it fair to conclude that praying to win the All-Ireland final doesn’t work? – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – I wonder how many of the people replying to the census question of religion were referring to the religion given to them as babies, before they were old enough to make their own decisions.

How many would choose to join any religion now as adults? – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Will we have a citizens’ assembly on the census results? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.