| 14°C Dublin

Big rise in people with no faith but 84pc still Catholic

IRELAND remains an overwhelmingly Catholic country -- despite a surge in those who claim to have no religion.

Census results reveal that the number of people who disassociate themselves from any creed has risen by 45pc, with the majority being from the Irish community. The overall figure grew by 83,500 to 269,800.

A report noted: "The majority of this group were Irish nationals, accounting for 176,180 of the total and increasing by 64.4pc since 2006."

The figure will be seen by many as a confirmation of the church's declining influence, which has been reflected on the ground through dwindling Mass attendance numbers.

The trend among those who did not put a faith to their name peaked in the 25 to 29 years age group, of whom some 13pc selected 'no religion'.

In the Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown area of south Dublin, the Census found the highest level of people without a religious faith, at 23pc of the overall population.

Conversely, the fastest-growing religions by percentage were Orthodox, Apostolic or Pentecostal, and Islam. However, at 3.861 million people, Catholicism continues to be the dominant religious force.

"Eighty-four per cent of people reported themselves as Catholic but other religions have shown strong increases," said senior statistician Deirdre Cullen.

She described Islam as being "the most important non-Christian religion in Ireland today".

However, the Census also notes that while the number of Catholics increased by nearly 179,889 over the last five years, "much of this increase came from the non-Irish (mostly European) national community".

The Church of Ireland had the second highest membership with 129,000, followed by the Islamic faith (49,200), Christian (41,200) and Presbyterian (24,600).

The Orthodox and Apostolic or Pentecostal religions recorded numbers of 45,200 and 14,000 respectively but enjoyed significant percentage increases of 117pc and 73pc.

Irish Independent