Los­ing our re­li­gion... but not the Catholics in Of­faly

Irish Daily Mail - - News - By Michelle O’Ke­effe michelle.o’ke­effe@dai­ly­mail.ie

THE num­ber of Catholics in Ire­land may have dropped for the first time in five decades – but the re­li­gion re­mains strong with its de­voted fol­low­ers in Of­faly.

Cen­sus fig­ures have re­vealed that it is the most Catholic county in Ire­land.

As many as 88.6% of the pop­u­la­tion in Of­faly are Catholic, which is the high­est per­cent­age na­tion­wide, ac­cord­ing to Cen­sus data pub­lished yes­ter­day.

It was also re­vealed that Dún Laoghaire-Rath­down had the low­est per­cent­age of Catholics liv­ing in a par­tic­u­lar area last year at 69.8%.

Fin­gal in Dublin had the high­est level of peo­ple of other re­li­gions at 15.2%, fol­lowed by Dún LaoghaireRath­down at 13.1% – while Gal­way had the low­est at 5.1%. The num­ber of Mus­lims in­creased by more than 14,000 between 2011 and last year. There were 63,443 Mus­lims in the coun­try in 2016, which is an in­crease of 28.9% from 49,204 in 2011.

There were also 14,332 Hin­dus recorded in Cen­sus 2016 – which was a 135.6% in­crease on the num­ber in 2006.

The num­ber of peo­ple who de­clared they have no re­li­gion, in­clud­ing athe­ists and ag­nos­tics, in­creased by more than 70%.

As many as 481,388 peo­ple stated that they had no re­li­gion in last year’s Cen­sus – an in­crease of 204,151 (73.6%) on five years pre­vi­ously. They were the sec­ond largest cat­e­gory and made up 10.1% of the pop­u­la­tion, com­pared with 6% in 2011.

Those with no re­li­gion were con­cen­trated in ur­ban ar­eas with just over three out of four lo­cated in cities and towns.

Dublin City had the high­est per­cent­age of those with no re­li­gion with nearly one in five be­long­ing to this cat­e­gory, while Mon­aghan was the low­est with 3.8%.

Long­ford has the small­est num­ber of peo­ple – at 1,840, or 4.5% of the pop­u­la­tion – who stated they have ‘no re­li­gion’ on Cen­sus form in April 2016.

A spokesman for Athe­ist Ire­land said: ‘We are in­creas­ingly op­ti­mistic that a sec­u­lar Ire­land is in­evitable, free of re­li­gious priv­i­lege and re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion against any ci­ti­zens.

‘The Cen­sus re­sults on re­li­gion broke a sig­nif­i­cant bar­rier – more Ir­ish peo­ple now have no re­li­gion (468,400) than mem­bers of all mi­nor­ity re­li­gions com­bined (439,000).

‘That should en­cour­age more athe­ists to stand up for our rights, par­tic­u­larly in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, and to sup­port equal treat­ment for ev­ery­one, re­gard­less of re­li­gious or non-re­li­gious be­liefs.’

The As­so­ci­a­tion of Catholic Pri­ests told the Ir­ish Daily Mail that the cler­i­cal child abuse scan­dals and the Church fail­ing to ‘up­date’ con­trib­uted to the sig­nif­i­cant de­crease of Catholics.

A spokesman for the as­so­ci­a­tion, Roy Dono­van, said: ‘I think the trend is go­ing in that di­rec­tion and I think it will con­tinue as the over-rid­ing in­flu­ence of the Catholic Church in our so­ci­ety couldn’t con­tinue.

‘The changes within the Church and dif­fer­ent is­sues such as child sex abuse would have con­trib­uted greatly to the de­crease.’

The spokesman said that peo­ple ‘are a lot more ed­u­cated and have more choices and opin­ions and a more adult un­der­stand­ing of re­li­gion now’, adding: ‘The Catholic Church’s sole in­flu­ence in so­ci­ety couldn’t con­tinue like that.

‘It is sad but also a lot of good can come out of it. It is sad the mes­sage of the Catholic Church of be­ing the best per­son you can be and help­ing oth­ers may be lost.

‘It is the old cliché of throw­ing the baby out with the bath water.

‘The Church has to up­date just like any busi­ness has to up­date.

‘The Catholic Church hasn’t done that enough.’

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