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Religion - No Religion, Atheism and Agnosticism

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Growth and demographics

The total of those with no religion (including - atheists and agnostics), stood at 481,388 in 2016, an increase of 73.6 per cent on the 2011 total of 277,237. There has been a seven fold increase in this category since 1991, when the total stood at just 67,413.   All remaining analysis in this section covers the three categories of no religion, atheists and agnostic. 


Table 8.1 No religion, Atheism and Agnosticism, 1991-2016
No religion66,270138,264186,318269,811468,421

Age and sex 

The pattern of more males than females in this category has persisted in 2016 and stood at 55.6 per cent, though this is down from 60.7 per cent in 1991.

The percentage of those with no religion varies greatly with age. The highest proportion was among those aged 30-34 (12.1%) while the lowest was for those aged 85 and over where just 0.2 per cent indicated they had no religion.

Figure 8.1 illustrates changes in the age structure for those with no religion between 2006 and 2016. Increases can be seen in all the age groups; among those aged 35-39 the number increased by 36,226 rising from 18,326 in 2006 to 54,552 in 2016, the largest absolute increase of any age group. The largest percentage increase was seen among those aged 65 to 69 which saw an increase of 348 per cent (from 2,755 to 12,353) over the ten years.


Interactive table: StatBank Link E8078

Economic status and no religion

Figure 8.2 illustrates the proportion of people with no religion by economic status for those aged 15 and over.

Students had the largest proportion of those with no religion with 15.3 per cent, an increase from 9.4 per cent in 2011. The proportion at work rose from 7.9 per cent to 13.3 per cent while retired persons recorded the lowest percentage with no religion at 4.9 per cent.

No Religion (including Atheism and Agnosticism)Other (excluding not stated)
At work 201613.386.7
At work 20117.992.1
Unemployed 201611.288.8
Unemployed 20117.292.8
Student 201615.384.7
Student 20119.490.6
Looking after home/family 20166.393.7
Looking after home/family 20113.596.5
Retired 20164.995.1
Retired 20113.196.9
Other inc. unable to work 20166.993.1
Other inc. unable to work 20114.195.9

Interactive table: StatBank Link E8060


Across all three levels of education, namely primary, secondary and third level, there has been an increase in students with no religion (including Atheists and Agnostics) between 2011 and 2016.

Third level students demonstrated the highest percentage increase, with 21.9 per cent (43,663 persons) indicating no religion in 2016 (up from 13.8% or 27,823 persons in 2011).

Among primary students the percentage increase was smallest, increasing from 2.9 per cent in 2011 to 5.6 per cent in 2016 (14,796 and 30,747 persons respectively).

Not statedReligionNo Religion (including Atheism and Agnosticism)
Third Level 2016276.121.9
Third Level 20112.28413.8
Secondary 2016290.17.9
Secondary 20111.194.74.2
Primary 20162.392.15.6
Primary 20111.595.62.9

Primary and secondary schools

Table 8.2 represents the population of primary and secondary schools by urban/rural areas and the proportion who have no religion. In 2016, Dublin city and suburbs had the highest number at 40,908 persons (21.6%).

Now looking at census settlements/towns (definition in background notes) with a general population of 5,000 or more, Greystones-Delgany had the highest proportion of children at primary and secondary level indicating no religion (at 25.8% or 982 persons), followed by Donabate (25.7% or 491 persons), Skerries (25.6% or 532 persons), Bray (25.5% and 1,497 persons) and Kinsale (25.5% and 228 persons).

Table 8.2 Population of primary and secondary schools by urban and rural areas, having no religion, 2016
 Primary school population Secondary school population
AreaAllNo Religion% AllNo Religion%
Dublin city and suburbs114,9259,0277.9 26,1581,9687.5
Cork city and suburbs19,5411,1956.1 4,5883066.7
Limerick city & suburbs9,4074745.0 2,143944.4
Galway city & suburbs6,9755718.2 1,6651418.5
Waterford city & suburbs5,8673225.5 1,435855.9
Towns 10,000 or over95,9335,8786.1 21,2381,3366.3
Towns 5,000 - 9,99938,4602,1375.6 8,2695236.3
Towns 3,000 - 4,99917,2218965.2 3,4361975.7
Towns 1,500 - 2,99921,7531,1915.5 4,6192826.1
Rural Total218,6119,0564.1 52,7932,4624.7
Total548,69330,7475.6 126,3447,3945.9

Twenty year olds living with and without parents

There were 54,183 twenty year olds in 2016 (usual residents) and of these 15.6 per cent indicated no religion, up from 7.6% in 2011.

This analysis can be further broken down by those twenty year olds living with and without parents. Twenty year olds enumerated in households without a parent were almost twice as likely (22.3%) as those with a parent (12.7%) to indicate they had no religion, as illustrated in Figure 8.4.

Not statedReligionNo Religion (including Atheism and Agnosticism)
Living with parents 20161.186.112.7
Not living with parents 20169.668.122.3

Religion of parents of children with no religion

Figure 8.5 presents the religion of the parents of children with no religion.

There were 129,057 children (of any age) with no religion who were enumerated  in the same household as their mother.  In  58.6 per cent of cases the mother also indicated 'no religion' while in a further 30.6 per cent of cases the mother was a Roman Catholic. For fathers 61.2 per cent indicated no religion.  


When examined on a county basis Dublin accounted for 41.5 per cent of all persons with no religion with 199,602 persons.  There were 57,937 persons in Cork City and County. 

Longford had the lowest count of people with no religion at 1,904, accounting for 0.4 per cent of the total. 


Irish nationals accounted for 77.2 per cent of all those with no religion, followed by UK nationals (6.7%), Polish (1.9%), Chinese (1.5%) and French (1.2%).

Of the Irish nationals, 11.4 per cent were born outside Ireland.  

Born outside IrelandBorn in Ireland
Rest of Europe162983
American (including US)7931101
Other nationalities3311222