We often use Ireland as an example of a country still heavily influenced by the Catholic church, however, this article suggests that their influence is starting to wane. Here are the highlights:
- the Catholic church runs more than 90% of Ireland’s primary schools
- Ireland’s last census, in 2011, showed a big rise in the numbers of non-Catholics. Although those identifying themselves as Catholic were still the vast majority of the 4.5m population, more than 6% – 277,000 people – described themselves as atheist, agnostic, lapsed or of “no religion”. The number was an increase of almost 50% since the previous census in 2006; the next census, due in April, is expected to show an even bigger rise.
- Migration has also led to significant increases in the numbers identifying as Muslim, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Hindu and Buddhist.
- Yet as the power of the pulpit wanes, particularly with the millennial generation, Catholic influence on the state endures. Despite an astonishing 62% vote in favour of same-sex marriage last May, making Ireland the first country in the world to endorse marriage equality through a referendum, the church still holds sway in spheres such as education and reproductive rights.
- Last month, the outgoing education minister, Jan O’Sullivan, abolished Rule 68which gave religion lessons a privileged status in primary schools, ensuring 30 minutes a day was devoted to faith formation. The move followed a poll showing 85% of primary heads believed less time should be spent teaching religion.
- Educate Together, which runs 77 non-religious state primary schools in Ireland – 2.4% of the total – says it cannot meet demand for equality-based education. “We are very significantly oversubscribed,”