THE DATE HAS been set for the 2011 Irish Census, which will take place on Sunday 10 April.
The aim of the census is to take account of every person in Ireland in order to build a comprehensive picture of the social and living conditions that exist within the country. The information is used by the state for policy, planning and decision making purposes – in areas such as health care, education and employment.
Everyone present in the country on census night must be accounted for.
Changes have been made to this year’s census form, with new questions relating to language and general health being included.
Respondents will be asked if they speak any language that is not English or Irish at home, as well as being asked to rate their proficiency in English. The aim of this question is to “target state resources in areas such as education and health to support people who may struggle speaking English”.
A question about general health will also be put to respondents. The census office states that studies show “strong links between how people view their health and the actual state of their health”, and that by gathering this data “a country-wide picture of people’s health and how it is related to various factors such as age” can be gleaned.
This year, Atheist Ireland has launched a campaign to encourage those with no religion to be honest on the census form. One of the organisation’s three campaigns on the subject, Be Honest to Godless, states: “If you are an atheist or agnostic or humanist and you have no religion, please be honest in the Irish Census on Sunday 10 April. Think before you tick your answer to the religion question, and give an answer that matches your actual religious affiliation.”
The campaign has targeted elements of society that it believes will put inaccurate information on the form, simply out of habit or because they spot the option to tick the ‘no religion’ box too late. The campaign’s Facebook page specifically asks those who grew up as a Roman Catholics but are no longer subscribers to the faith to represent this when answering questions.
Writing in Atheist Ireland’s blog, Michael Nugent said: “many people tick their childhood religion out of habit, or tick a religion that they don’t really practice, or let somebody else fill in the answer for them. But you won’t write in your childhood home address unless you still live there. So don’t write in your childhood religion unless you still really practice it.”
Nugent claims that the Catholic church “relies solely on the data from the Central Statistics Office, obtained through the census”, rather than baptismal figures, to ascertain how many practicing members exist in Ireland. “Careless answers to the question of religion will have an impact on the allocation of State resources, and on the political lobbying power of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland,” he says.