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It's Return of the Jedis -- but how many?

STAR Wars fans will have to wait five months to find out how many of them have declared their religion as "Jedi".

Yesterday in Leinster House, Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy demanded in the Public Accounts Committee to know how many people had given this response in the "other religion" category in last year's census.

But the force was not strong in the Central Statistics Office, which is still working on compiling the statistics.

A spokesman confirmed that the information would be released in October in its publication about "Irish Travellers, Ethnicity and Religion".

Around 3.6 million people declared themselves Catholic -- or 84pc.

But the CSO will be looking in detail at the returns of the 81,000 people in the "other religion" category. The "Jedi" phenomenon began in 2001 -- and has since seen people in countries such as Britain, New Zealand and Australia put down their religion as Jedi as a protest or a joke.

Although the CSO expressed doubt that many people had given "Jedi" as their religion, its director general Gerry O'Hanlon said it was allowed.

"If somebody wishes, under 'religious denomination', to consider themselves a Jedi Knight, well the CSO is quite willing to accept it as Jedi Knight, because it's self-declaration . . . whether such a thing exists or not is immaterial," he said.

It helped take attention away from the fact that the Central Statistics Office had gone €2m over budget on a new €18m IT system to gather and process statistics.

Labour TD Derek Nolan -- playing the Darth Vader role -- had strongly questioned why this had happened.

"I've seen nothing but a complete and utter defence to every action on this project. No hands up at all," he said.

Mr O'Hanlon admitted that the project wasn't perfect -- but said it had succeeded in updating the obsolete 1980s system.

Irish Independent