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Press Statement


12 October 2017

Profile 8 - Irish Travellers Ethnicity and Religion

Census 2016 Results Logo

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) today (Thursday 12th October) publishes Census 2016 Profile 8 Irish Travellers, Ethnicity and Religion.  The report shows that the number of Irish Travellers stood at 30,987, representing 0.7% of the general population in April 2016.  The report also details how both the proportion and total number of Catholics have fallen since 2011, with Catholics comprising 78.3% of the population in April 2016, down from 84.2% in 2011, while the number of people with no religion (including atheists and agnostics) increased by 73.6% to stand at 481,388 in 2016.  

Deirdre Cullen, Senior Statistician, commented: “This report, the eighth of eleven thematic reports of Census 2016 results, provides further insight into the demographic structure of our population, this time looking at religion, ethnicity and Irish Travellers.  These themes are examined by age, social class, and household composition.  As always all of this information is available on, where users can also access detailed data for their own area".

Today’s full report is available on the CSO website at Census 2016 - Profile 8 Irish Travellers, Ethnicity and Religion

Highlights from Profile 8 Irish Travellers, Ethnicity and Religion

Irish Travellers
Irish Travellers and Age Structure
There were 30,987 usually resident Irish Travellers enumerated in Census 2016, an increase of 5.1% on the 2011 figure (29,495).  Almost 60% of Travellers were aged under 25, compared with just 33.4% of the general population.  There were just 451 Traveller men aged 65 and over and 481 Traveller females.

Where Travellers live
Travellers were more urbanised than the general population with almost 8 in 10 (78.6%) living in cities or towns (of 1,500 or more), compared with 62.4% of the total population.  Dublin city and suburbs had the largest number of Irish Travellers with 5,089 persons.  This was followed by Galway city and suburbs with 1,598 persons and Cork city and suburbs with 1,222.  

Among towns with 1,500 or more persons, Tuam had the highest number of Irish Travellers with 737 persons, followed by Longford with 730 persons.  Navan, Mullingar, Dundalk and Ballinasloe all had 500 or more Irish Travellers in 2016. 

Traveller households
There were 8,717 Traveller households (defined as households containing at least one Irish Traveller) in April 2016, an increase of 12.3% on April 2011.  Traveller households were more likely to be multiple family, 4.2% compared with 1.3% of the general population, but less likely to be one-person households, 11.0% compared with 23.6%. 

Marital status
In April 2016 31.9% of Travellers, aged 15 to 29, were married compared with just over 1 in 20 (5.8%) of the general population.  The divorce rate was less than half that of the general population, 2.2% compared to 4.7%. 

Educational attainment among Travellers continues to lag significantly behind that of the general population.  Among Traveller females, just 13.3% were educated to upper secondary level or above, compared with almost 7 in10 (69.1%) of the general population.  Nearly 6 in 10 male Travellers (57.2%) were educated to primary level at most, compared with just 13.6% of the general population.  The 167 Travellers with a third-level qualification was almost double the 2011 figure of 89. 

While 10,653 Travellers were in the labour force, the vast majority, 8,541 (80.2%), were unemployed.  Almost 1 in 8 Travellers (11.3%) stated that they were unable to work due to a disability, which was almost three times the rate of the general population (4.3%). 

Ethnic composition
“White Irish” remains by far the largest group, accounting for 3,854,226 (82.2%) usual residents.  This was followed by “Any other White background” (9.5%), non-Chinese Asian (1.7%) and “other incl. mixed background” (1.5%).  The 19,447 persons with Chinese ethnic/cultural background made up 0.4% of the usually resident population, while those of mixed backgrounds (70,603) constituted 1.5%.    

The vast majority (94.1%) of White Irish people were born in Ireland.  Of the 5.9% (226,078) born elsewhere, 121,174 were born in England and Wales and 53,915 were born in Northern Ireland. 

Over one in three of those with African ethnicity (38.6%) were born in Ireland (22,331 persons), along with 31.3% (2,126) of those with “other Black backgrounds”.  Among those persons with Chinese ethnicity, over half (55.7%) were born in China,  with 8.3% being born in Malaysia and 6.4% born in Hong Kong.  Of those with “Any other Asian background”,  22.4% were born in India, followed by 16.1% in the Philippines and 13.7% in Pakistan. 

Catholicism is still the largest religion but the numbers are falling
Both the proportion and total number of Catholics in the Irish population have fallen since 2011, with Catholics comprising 78.3% of the population in April 2016, compared with 84.2% five years previously.  The 3,729,115 Catholics recorded in Census 2016 was 132,220 fewer than in 2011.

There were 73,208 divorced Catholics in Ireland in April 2016, of whom 29,900 were males and 43,308 were females.  Catholics had a lower rate of divorce than the general population, 4.1% compared to 4.7%, although the rate has increased since 2011, when it was 3.6%. 

Persons born outside of Ireland comprised 12.0% of the country’s total Catholic population. 

10% say they have no religion 
In April 2016, 481,388 persons stated that they had no religion (including atheists/agnostics), an increase of 204,151 (+73.6%) on five years previously.  They were the second largest category and made up 10.1% of the population, compared with 6.0% five years previously.  With an average age of 34 years, they were 3.4 years younger on average than the population overall. 

Church of Ireland members among oldest
There were 126,414 members of the Church of Ireland in April 2016, a decrease of 2.0% on 2011.

Their average age was 40.3 years, nearly three years above that of the general population.  The 11,551 Church of Ireland members in Cork County in 2016 was the highest of any county and accounted for 9.1% of all members.  This was followed by Dublin City with 11,149 persons (8.8%), while Leitrim had the fewest with 1,102 persons (0.9%).

Growing number of Muslims  
There were 63,443 Muslims in Ireland in April 2016, up from 49,204 (+28.9%) five years previously.  Some 16,364 (25.8%) of all Muslims were aged between 5 and 18 years old.  More than 4 in 10 (43.5%) of all of Ireland's Muslims lived in Dublin city and suburbs.

Other religions
In April 2016, there were 62,187 Orthodox Christians in Ireland, an increase of 37.5% on 2011.  There were 24,211 Presbyterians, a slight fall on the 24,600 five years previously.  The Apostolic and Pentecostal population has increased from just 3,152 persons in 2002 to 13,350 in 2016, an annualised growth rate of over 10.9%. 

Among other Christian religions, there were 9,724 Evangelical Christians and 6,471 Methodists.  Jehovah’s Witnesses (6,417 persons), Lutheran (5,329) and Baptists (3,957) were the next largest groups.  A further 37,427 identified themselves as ‘Christian’, while 5,409 persons stated that they were ‘Protestant’.

Looking at other, non-Christian, religions, the 14,332 Hindus recorded in Census 2016 was a 135.6% increase on the number in 2006.  The number of Buddhists increased to 9,758 (+12.1%) since 2011, while there were 2,557 Jews, an increase of 28.9% (573) on five years previously. 

Editor's Note:
  • The CSO has now published eight of the 11 thematic reports from Census 2016.  Two Summary Reports have also been published.  All of the reports published to date, together with details of the remaining thematic reports, are available at  The reports include a range of interactive web tables, which allow users to build their own tables by selecting the data they are interested in and downloading them in an easy to use format for their own analysis.  
  • In co-operation with the All Ireland Research Observatory (AIRO) at NUI Maynooth, summary census data is available in thematic maps for Electoral Districts and all Small Areas on the AIRO website.  This can be accessed via the link on the CSO website. 
  • The census figures relate to the de facto population, i.e. the population recorded for each area represents the total of all persons present within its boundaries on the night of Sunday, 24 April 2016, together with all persons who arrived in that area on the morning of Monday, 25 April 2016, not having been enumerated elsewhere.  Persons on board ships in port are included with the population of adjacent areas.  The figures, therefore, include visitors present on Census Night as well as those in residence, while usual residents temporarily absent from the area are excluded.
  • The de facto measure of the population in April 2016 was 4,761,865 while the usually resident total was 4,689,921 - a difference of 71,944 or 1.5%.  The usually resident measure is used when analysing topics such as commuting patterns, nationality and households and families. 
For further information contact:

Declan Smyth (+353) 1 895 1305 or Census Enquiries (+353) 1 895 1460

or email

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