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Irish census finds 10% drop in those identifying as Catholic

St. Patrick Statue, shamrock

Mark Gusev | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 06/01/23

The decline of the Catholic faith in Ireland was significant, but it was dwarfed by the increase in those who claim no faith, also known as "nones."

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) of Ireland has released the data from their 2022 National Census, taken every six years. Among the key findings of the report was an increase in population, as well as a distinct decrease in the amount of Irish people who claim Catholicism as their faith. This in turn was contrasted by an increase in those who claim no religion, a group of people who have been referred to as “nones.” 

According to the numbers, provided by the Irish Post, in the six years since the census was last conducted in 2016, Ireland has experienced quite a bit of growth. Ireland’s population has risen 8% (387,274 people) to currently stand at 5,149,139. This growth was recorded in all Irish counties, although not uniformly, with the Eastern regions experiencing about twice as much as the West. 

While the population growth suggests that Ireland may start to climb out of the quagmire of low birth rates – currently at 1.63 births per woman – this may not be the case. The fastest growing age group in Ireland is those over 70 years old (26%), while the portion aged 25-39 shrunk by 4%. The average age of Irish citizens has risen from 37.4 in 2016 to 38.8 in 2022.

On the religious side of the survey, Catholicism – Ireland’s largest held faith – was found to have sharply decreased in the last six years. The rates of responses fell significantly from the 3,696,644 (79%) who identified as Catholic in 2016, to 3,515,861 (69%) in 2022, a decrease of about 181,000. In the same timeframe, the number of those who claim no religion, or “nones,” have risen to nearly double their ranks, from 451,941 people to 736,210, an increase of about 284,000.

Cormac Halpin, Senior Statistician in the CSO’s Census, thanked those who took part in the national survey. He noted that this is only the first part of the Census to be released, with eight more reports planned to release throughout the rest of the year. These reports will explore “a range of topics” which include housing, homelessness, religion, disability, and carers in greater detail.

Read more from the 2022 Irish National Census at the Irish Post.

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