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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
census 2022

Census 2022: Number who identify as Catholic falls by 10 percentage points to 69%

There has also been an increase in the ‘No Religion’ category.

IRELAND’S POPULATION HIT close to 5.15 million as the number of people who identify as Roman Catholic saw a sharp decrease.

That’s according to the results of Census 2022, which was published by the Central Statistics Office this morning.

As of Sunday, 3 April, 2022, there were 5,149,139 people in the State.

That’s an 8% increase on the same figure in April 2016.

Census 2022 marked the first time in 171 years that the population of Ireland surpassed 5 million people. 

Screenshot (270) CSO The population at each census from 1841 to 2022. CSO

The CSO notes that after a constant decline since 1851, Ireland’s population recorded its lowest level in 1961 when it stood at 2,818,341.

It then began to increase again and, in 2022, was 83% higher than 61 years previously. 

Census 2022 also revealed that there has been a drop in the number of people who identify as Catholic.

In 2016, 79% of the population (3,696,644 people) identified themselves as Catholic.

In 2022, this figure dropped to 69% (3,515,861 people).

Mayo had the highest proportion of Catholics at 80% of the county’s population, followed closely by Tipperary, Offaly, Roscommon and Galway on 79%.

Dublin city recorded the lowest percentage of Catholics at 53%.

The ‘No religion’ category also increased from 451,941 people in 2016 to 736,210 people in 2022. 

This category now makes up 14% of the population. 

The Church of Ireland category showed little change but remained the second-largest religious category with 124,749 people. 

Screenshot (269) CSO The percentage of Irish and non-Irish population usually resident in Ireland by religion. CSO

Other categories with large numbers included Orthodox, with 100,165, and Islam, with 81,930.

According to the results, 132 people in Ireland said they were Scientologists, while 189 said they were Satanists. 1,800 people listed their religion as Jedi Knight. 

The average age of the population also increased from 37.4 in 2016 to 38.8 in 2022. In 2011, the average age of the population was 36.1

Elsewhere, close to a third of all workers (747,961 people) worked from home for at least some part of their week, while close to 80% of households had a broadband internet connection, up from 71% in 2016. 

The number of people aged 15 and over at work in April 2022 stood at 2.3 million, up 16% in six years. 

There were 176,276 unemployed people who had lost or given up their previous job, a decline of 34% since 2016, while the overall unemployment rate stood at 8%, down from 13% in the previous census.

There was also a dip in the proportion of the population who rated their health as being good or very good, falling from 87% in 2016 to 83% last year. 

52% of people aged 35 to 39 reported very good health last year, compared with 61% in 2016.

In contrast, there was a small increase in the proportion of people aged 75 and over reporting very good health in 2022 compared with the previous census.

8% of the population (407,342) reported experiencing at least one long-lasting condition or difficulty to a great extent or a lot, while 14% of the population (702,215) reported a long-lasting condition or difficulty to some extent or a little.

The results of the first question ever included on smoking in the census found that 13% of the population smoked either daily or occasionally last year. 

download (3) CSO The population by age and smoking frequency. CSO

Almost one million people (974,145) said they had given up smoking, while over 3.1 million people said they had never smoked.

Smoking rates were higher among men (15%) than women (11%), while people aged in their 20s and 30s smoke the most. 

There’s also been a sharp increase in the number of people with dual Irish citizenship, which stood at 170,597 people in 2022 – a 63% increase from 2016. 

Meanwhile, the number of people who say they can speak Irish increased by 6% between 2016 and 2022.

Of the 1,837,997 people who said they could speak Irish, 10% said they could speak Irish “very well”, while a further 32% could speak it “well”.

33% (623,961) of people who could speak Irish did so daily, both within and outside the education system. 

However, only 71,968 of daily Irish speakers used Irish outside the education system and among those who could speak Irish, one in four (472,887) indicated that they never speak the language. 

County breakdowns

Between April 2016 and April 2022, increases in population ranged from 5% in Donegal, Kilkenny and Tipperary to 14.4% in Longford.

Population growth also tended to be stronger in the east of the country, with Meath growing by 13.2%, followed by Fingal (11.6%) and Kildare (11.4%).

Marital status also differed widely between counties.

Galway city and Dublin city had the highest proportion of single people, both at 55%. 

Both cities also had the lowest proportion of married people, at 36% in Galway and 35% in Dublin. 

At just over 7% each, Longford and Wexford had the highest percentage of divorced and separated people.

Leitrim and Mayo had the highest percentage of widowed people at 6%, and the CSO said this “reflected the age profile of these counties”. 

The North

While the number of people identifying as Catholic decreases in the Republic, there was an uptick in the proportion of Catholics in the North.

In Census 2021 for Northern Ireland, the census recorded more Catholics than Protestants for the first time in the region’s history. 
45.7% identified themselves as Catholic, a 1.9% increase on the same figure 20 years previous. 

Of this figure, 42.3% said Catholicism was their “current religion”. 

Meanwhile, the percentage of people identifying as Protestant dropped from 53.1% in 2001 to 43.5% in 2021, with 37.4% stating that this was their current religion. 

The non-religious grouping in the North in the 2021 Census was 17.4%, a figure which outnumbers all Protestant denominations. 

The 2021 Census also recorded the North’s highest-ever population, at 1,903,175.

The numbers of people identifying as “Northern Irish only” (19.8%) and “British only” (31.9%) also dropped in the 2021 Census, while there was an increase in the numbers identifying as “Irish only” (29.1%).

Additional reporting from Jane Moore

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