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