Carl O'Brien, Irish Times (Dublin), November 28, 2007
The proportion of Catholics in Ireland is falling slowly due to immigration and greater numbers of people describing themselves as not religious.
Latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that while the number of Catholics has actually increased, their proportion within the wider population has fallen from 92 per cent in 1991 to 87 per cent last year.
People who described themselves as ‘not religious’ during this time has increased from 4 per cent to 6 per cent during the same period. The highest proportion of people was among foreign nationals, 20 per cent of whom said they were not religious.
There has also been an increase in the other religions, with Muslims now the third-largest religious group, behind Catholics and Church of Ireland. The number of Muslims rose by 13,400 to more than 32,500 (0.8 per cent of the population) from 2002-2006.
Catholics now number 3.6 million (an increase of 218,800 since 2002), while there are 125,600 members of the Church of Ireland (an increase of 10,000). The religious grouping with the highest proportion of non-Irish nationals is Orthodox Christian, with members drawn mainly from Eastern Europe.
In the area of ethnicity, 95 per cent of people are white, followed by Asians (1.3 per cent) and blacks (1.1 per cent). Almost 2 per cent did not answer the question.
A total of 36 per cent of migrants from EU countries have a third-level qualification compared with just over 29 per cent of Irish nationals. The qualification rate (54 per cent) is even higher among non-EU migrants.
Editor’s Note: The CSO Census figures are available online at: http://www.cso.ie/statistics/Population.htm