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Religion - Religious Change

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The proportion of Catholics in Ireland, 1881 to 2016

In 2016 Roman Catholics accounted for 78.3 per cent of the de facto population compared with 84.2 per cent in 2011.

Looking back, census results show that historically Roman Catholics represented on average of 89.5 per cent of the population in each of the four censuses held from 1881 to 1911.  It subsequently rose to a peak in 1961 of 94.9 per cent. Since then, its proportion of the total population has slowly declined.

While the proportion of Catholics declined in 2016, the total number also recorded a fall of 132,220 persons from 3.86 million in 2011 to 3.73 million in 2016, the first such fall in absolute numbers since at least five decades.

ReligionNot StatedOther stated religionsMethodistPresbyterianOrthodoxMuslim (Islamic)No ReligionChurch of Ireland (incl. Protestant)Roman Catholic
188100.3347269523154920.4563283910677461.459889096180380008.2060557826574589.5429997777789
189100.3720420423363950.5337167245078411.483814945913360008.268356908969289.3420693782732
190100.4563255026734860.5547170033859711.449924468228080008.2023127899949889.3367202357175
191100.500622991838680.52361890735641.448742677616370007.9477642364464289.5792511867421
192600.4514144048839970.3587829307750491.091153677398860005.5254186417729292.5732303451692
193600.3959682255206470.3250550798067660.9455198388368220004.8857641438879993.4476927119478
194600.4067534610421890.2827308791187590.8077541693075750004.2241786845620194.2785828059695
19610.1995855008318720.3012765311223870.236876942853970.672487821736263000.03927842656371253.6906818585827694.859812918309
19711.566289979880790.2981954491365390.1895745418111590.538974591773418000.2557208130417613.2817616262984193.8694829980579
19812.061215570053480.3766620539843560.168147516774820.413979767120045001.149211318447872.769526094084293.0612576795352
19912.364765881796021.02364936059850.1428644767209180.3743633568075050.01015395724957090.1099066601734281.87961661153372.5296116905516391.5650680045687
20022.01914478264211.568185258716490.2561266291279770.5254259225268640.2664401104563640.4887926410757883.529661342544672.9513660640002688.3948572489095
20061.658597194993782.055120843954780.286802734437650.5553500974563240.4905364531936050.7674567578837734.394449989716612.9620165628579186.8296693655056
20111.589145495931782.701638881212280.1491199698708790.5361518940110530.9856258984903181.072390967191865.880474742886832.9284572861298884.1569948642751
20162.630775966979323.169346464042970.1358921346993250.5084352454342991.30593790458151.332314124822949.83692313830822.7683061153560678.3120689057754

Interactive table: StatBank Link E8053

It's a Fact

  • 94.9% - The percentage of the population who were Catholic in 1961, the highest recorded.
  • 78.3% - The percentage of the population who were Catholic in 2016, the lowest recorded.

Number with no religion continues to rise

In 2016 persons indicating 'No Religion' accounted for 9.8 per cent of the population up from 5.9 per in 2011.  This was an increase of 198,610 persons over the five years, bringing the total to 468,421 and making ‘No Religion’ the second largest group in 2016.

Twenty-five years of religious change

The twenty-five years between 1991 and 2016 have seen significant increases in the non-Catholic population, driven by not only growing numbers with no religion but by increases also in other religions. 

The fastest growing religion in percentage terms has been Orthodox followed by Apostolic and Pentecostal. Figure 4.2 shows that among larger religions in the State, only two have an annualised growth rate that is lower than the overall change in the population between 1991 and 2016, namely Roman Catholics and Methodists.

1991-2016
Roman Catholic0.578494428454968
Methodist1.00711759142977
State1.20947575710237
Church of Ireland (incl. Protestant)1.57517644598562
Not stated1.64195363122484
Jewish1.94171939564953
Presbyterian2.45634713300711
Jehovah's Witness2.58170831441829
Baptist5.04522814733879
Other stated religions5.06070108336643
Lutheran6.87914572207129
Agnostic7.65084858231799
No religion8.13661617477674
Buddist9.6022212753083
Evangelical10.4033984081139
Pantheist11.0124998301009
Hindu11.4521769904992
Muslim (Islamic)11.8315849817578
Atheist13.6079192487853
Apostolic or Pentecostal16.6340768294596
Orthodox22.9115408649589

Proportional breakdown of broad religion by age group

Figure 4.3 illustrates the proportional breakdown of the population by broad religion and age group in 2011 and 2016.

In 2016 the proportion of Roman Catholics increased steadily from 75.5 per cent for those aged less than one, to 83.5 per cent for 11 year olds. It then falls with increasing age to reach a low of 60.5 per cent for 27 year olds before steadily rising to reach a peak for 82 year olds at 91.9 per cent.

The mirror reverse of this pattern can be largely seen for those indicating no religion, with an initial low of 4.5 per cent for 12 years olds, rising to a peak of 18.5 per cent for those aged 26 before declining as the population ages. 

The proportional fluctuations at an age group basis are not as pronounced for those signalling other stated religions, although they show similar trends as those with no religion, particularly in the post 20 year olds.

 

2016 Roman Catholic2016 No religion2016 Not stated2011 Roman Catholic2011 No religion2011 Not stated
0-478.22934105545759.305762936820363.0882463840248683.61486154649225.021763594880012.42725122008032
5-982.09055548836916.009939222805652.3779323379110885.57689310097583.156467250678061.5157277800293
10-1482.95552717575035.151247668056442.1453880729694988.48031842269692.733304461950931.21821806268616
15-1979.42578991863059.585688999260282.5375145302758186.20304643857835.000370999826871.46138598468654
20-2469.342484176058717.24773056176823.0836585829349979.54654797110669.292435849558092.19593514808348
25-2965.606939331282517.610234168815.0337048430749678.24225607966289.863979486157032.18541102452911
30-3469.892119621520815.60964154983083.180606395469378.85948546116848.977649164223431.86574267981571
35-3972.245205060846713.65925309626343.1985948369502480.45220322790537.765311136794771.6040696094284
40-4475.788060202540111.49583170144912.2606725227997582.12066067736366.802655284572511.52503536751992
45-4978.19846064211469.739965042470332.5233816810278784.63784262005016.207710077493981.15241574782509
50-5481.05656225515538.681881074232752.0061013219530985.84730999395015.855983905884411.19867631730482
55-5982.2911344603157.947368031336312.2983909782230486.56112742411735.596633431756651.10255927891969
60-6483.83503031114987.244950932779581.8617912047426187.69939575658414.533653890102661.17603502966369
65-6985.59667859645145.679429642674541.8102974871707588.97937087503893.392114629286221.20307766733088
70-7487.43344507986594.151671267994481.8998964701242490.78512081713552.204436313743431.26991386538608
75-7989.84644963496062.596412827907541.5675474377960892.14590928691831.442628092045941.07413069896899
80-8491.26325012031541.644927625652481.6486296383133692.07707557799550.9784205496840811.34639795758276
85+90.58100806750061.059877137147512.411368514543791.28663379895920.7138455217748561.80601205149274

Interactive table: StatBank Link E8066

Religion by county

Among stated responses, the administrative county of Offaly had the highest percentage of Catholics in 2016 with 88.6 per cent while Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown had the lowest at 69.8 per cent. All of the major urban areas - with the exception of Limerick City and County - featured as having low percentages of Catholics. 

Fingal had the highest percentage of other religions, at 15.2 per cent, followed by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown at 13.1 per cent while Galway County had the lowest at 5.1 per cent. 

Dublin City had the highest percentage of those with no religion with nearly 1 in 5 belonging to this category, while Monaghan was the lowest with 3.8 per cent. 

Other stated religionsNo religionOrthodoxPresbyterianMuslimChurch of IrelandRoman Catholic
Offaly2.040523063658574.598361833596780.8844008412911990.1267162209826390.7485401507531122.9667271943461188.6347306953716
Tipperary1.961383277966585.325391067496531.075515165400230.1476446854277240.603943131340132.4469561011620788.4391665712067
Mayo2.138090169602145.907717169205910.4917918159004920.269592038100270.9828067095009832.0440825713020488.1659195263882
Roscommon2.497489959839365.642884036144580.6290788152610440.2259036144578311.145205823293171.9342996987951887.9251380522088
Galway County2.235096053011977.651363561642280.4568824292994280.1853604893063440.4897598249562111.692052173025887.289485468758
Longford2.977320411629534.595863722649621.136477170546510.3272055150364671.753421920271763.1072035168348586.1025077430313
Kerry2.859946141160267.246588592224560.5156253261799890.2525937832703591.129365592969132.0485842918675985.9472962723281
Kilkenny2.35760803999557.278322479066770.8772019507008410.455981433581090.793366799235262.724642422631485.5128768747891
Monaghan2.306864287488613.75755568435871.039993375838373.933095967541610.5415252132152023.0736109961083185.3473544754492
Wexford2.145150669680747.573196478151370.7053201094298380.1880401061713810.4724762234486693.7003849051992785.2154315079187
Westmeath3.614430120634346.414664719344041.166093586485270.2679485262831051.406442264567542.1746380394907884.9557827431949
Leitrim2.387698576931657.631084651873550.4711725191811790.2546878482060420.8532042914902423.5083251090382484.8938270032791
Limerick City and County2.624554457530657.954216398068830.7802587173641790.1895365305338091.969600446463831.6226432975144484.8591901525242
Clare3.059723954078348.740594229694290.6406673259663760.2442275443952361.056886098808961.6700348282237684.587866018833
Laois3.195634286820585.753593727312331.00067760514980.217801655292581.297129858186923.9833502734620884.5518125937757
Carlow2.531328320802016.949516648764771.050841389187250.2255639097744361.050841389187254.0852130325814584.1066953097028
Louth3.812804276577477.753683138702391.170172144970880.4828650523435261.451777134311261.6538326916345883.6748655614599
Donegal2.279685002984385.24481583456880.2503032520168673.771877466931090.4794269980938444.3360224887844983.6378689566205
Meath3.211840462922838.24267935387171.522360154377240.4141446320484230.8167997534977732.1589834916622783.6331921516198
Cork County2.880181520970069.224388220655330.604825920413790.2281211115719620.6992461024227192.81821065215883.5450264718081
Cavan2.615817626422295.207624688196141.032454279883151.247215441460911.03378820014145.6371470113516683.2259527525445
Sligo2.720791275994958.245058425248440.3463392564626590.4477448946161411.156024274949693.8892962448712183.1947456278569
Waterford City and County3.166473876149029.092354016371010.9298095347420290.2852122314545821.424295137263912.5059823927805182.5958728112389
Kildare3.602046555011459.846416928430021.622246912564180.3383491305799030.8303270555852752.491895623865581.2687177939637
South Dublin4.8411005592994210.58898331712982.362513261643450.3467434578972863.06672039095512.3033672560319776.490571757043
Cork City3.9139200921696915.33637822491051.109328066493850.2666337489198861.857383862074641.5619470847220575.9544089207094
Wicklow3.8743552875363913.57526593271380.9421207373865270.4671259237003810.4199125837857946.362355230308174.358864304569
Fingal5.813180042290412.14168685496633.710212712327230.5485849518981672.840948873422862.2580554816484972.6873310834465
Galway City5.3316512847752517.06659584356952.063607994157090.6135050793440012.714295199521941.7263129938251170.4840316048071
Dublin City4.9454153496793218.10231073741062.421019118053210.4869656611532211.880926443060122.1383143584865170.025048332157
DĂșn Laoghaire-Rathdown4.7159213248579417.05923103567721.297990057948490.5752721894045071.762326926857584.7973675095254669.7918909557288

Interactive table: StatBank Link E8057

Urban and rural

There was a higher percentage of Catholics in rural areas (85.9%) than urban areas (73.8%). Indeed the percentage of Catholics falls as settlement size rises with small towns of 9,999 or fewer persons having 80.7 per cent Catholics while large towns of 10,000 or more having 72.1 per cent.

Those with no religion were concentrated in urban areas with just over three out of four in this group located in cities, towns or settlements of 1,500 or more persons.

Dublin city and suburbs accounted for 23.6 per cent of Church of Ireland members, while 55.1 per cent were based in urban areas over all compared with 44.9 per cent in rural areas. 

Muslims in Ireland were highly concentrated in urban areas with only 5.8 per cent in rural areas, while 43.5 per cent were in Dublin city and suburbs alone. 

Marriage and religion

Figure 4.5 examines the religion of married opposite-sex couples by whether their spouse was of the same or a different religion.

The results show that 95.6 per cent of Muslim females were married to Muslim males while only 54.6 per cent of Church of Ireland females were married to Church of Ireland males. Among Catholics, 96.0 per cent of Catholic males were married to Catholic females. For males of no religion 53.3  per cent were married to a female with no religion while for females of no religion 74.1 per cent were married to someone who also had no religion.  

FemalesMales
Roman Catholic92.822073567808596.0107056477599
Church of Ireland54.566893424036351.0262934690416
Muslim (Islamic)95.641025641025681.2414919684182
Orthodox (Greek, Coptic or Russian)79.024474319200385.7891290111329
Other Christian religions61.246612466124767.807977409107
Presbyterian57.356321839080552.1203258825987
Hindu89.831649831649881.6651362105908
Apostolic or Pentecostal88.489583333333391.1969940955448
No religion74.144181963897353.2945630109179
Other stated religions56.405749795995257.0938433191435