Nearly eight of ten Irishmen are Catholics. Other Christians are mainly Anglicans, Presbyterians or Methodists. Church organizations were not divided when Ireland was divided but are common to the Republic and Northern Ireland. A majority of immigrants are also Catholics, but through immigration, the number of Muslims (approximately 63,400 in 2016) and followers of Orthodox Christian churches (62,200 in 2016) has increased. In the 2016 census, one in ten residents said they lacked religion. Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Constitution.
The strong position of the Catholic Church in Ireland has impacted society in a conservative direction. The church still has a decisive role in the school system and its influence has also been visible in the strict abortion legislation (see Social conditions). However, in the spring of 2018, a clear majority of voters voted to remove the abortion ban from the constitution.
The Catholic Church is also committed to assisting those who have not benefited from the increasing wealth. In 2009, the Irish Archbishop criticized the actions of the economic elite, stressing that the ongoing financial crisis mainly affected those who had the worst.
The Catholic Church has lost much of its power in recent years, especially in the larger cities and among many young people. Fewer and more people are applying for priestly education and few women today want to become nuns. Not even in the Archdiocese of Dublin can all the priesthood be added. There are ten times as many priests who are over 70 years old than under 40 years. Until the mid-1980s, 85 percent of the Irish received church service at least once a week. In 2010, that figure had dropped to just over 41 percent. In the Dublin area, the figure was down 20 to 22 percent in 2016.
An important reason for the changes is the many scandals that have shaken the church since the early 1990s (see also Modern History). The revelations have shown how women in the years 1922–1996 were intercepted and used for forced labor in, among other things, the church’s laundries (see Calendar) or how women who have had children outside of marriage were forced to adopt their children. In recent years, the greatest attention has been paid to how the church leadership, sometimes with the help of high-ranking police officers, tried to conceal how priests and others within the church have sexually abused children. The so-called Murphy Commission, which published its first report in 2009, examined allegations against 46 priests who were said to have abused 320 children. When someone reported an abuse, the church leadership usually denied that something had happened and chose to move the pastor to a new congregation.
- Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Ireland, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.
After that, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, and the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, apologized to the victims and all Irish, saying they were ashamed of how the Church handled the matter. In 2009 and 2010, several bishops were forced to leave.
Even the then Pope Benedict XVI, in a letter, pleaded the victims of the abuse of apology and criticized the Catholic Church in Ireland for “serious mistakes”. In Ireland he received some criticism for his apology not going far enough and for the Vatican not taking any responsibility for what had happened. Later, the pope commissioned a group, which included a number of sitting and former Catholic archbishops from England, the United States and Canada, to investigate on a deeper level what role the leadership of the Catholic Church in Ireland played in the many scandals and what what has been done for the victims, and how new abuses should be avoided.
In the Murphy Commission’s next interim report 2011 came new criticism of how the church handled allegations of sexual abuse, this time in Cloyne’s diocese outside Cork 1996–2009. The Vatican’s actions were also questioned, which prompted then-Prime Minister Enda Kenny to openly criticize the papacy (see Modern History and Foreign Policy and Defense). Read more about those affected here.
The Protestant churches are also losing members and seeing the attendance of worshipers decline. In 2016, the Church of Ireland had just over 126,000 members. The Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (which is the largest Protestant community in Northern Ireland, had 230,000 in 2016, which was 40 percent less than in the 1970s (about 24,000 members resided in the Republic of Ireland).
From 2002 until summer 2018, 14,500 people have applied for damages for the abuses they were subjected to between 1936 and 1970.
In June 2018, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland decided to no longer have as close contacts as it had previously with its sister church in Scotland, citing its liberal attitude towards same-sex marriage.
Kenny thanks the Irish in TV talk
In the middle of the month, Prime Minister Kenny will give a talk – in connection with the last loan payment from the IMF – in which he thanks the Irish people for enduring the tough austerity policy. At the same time, he warns that his government will continue with the tight economic policy and that the greatest efforts will be made to create new jobs.
Police leak made murder possible
Judge Peter Smithwick presents his investigation into the murders of two highly regarded Northern Irish policemen in 1989. According to the so-called Smithwick Tribunal, persons within the Irish police had provided the IRA with information so that they could carry out the murders. The two men were killed while on their way home from Dundalk following a meeting with the Irish police, where, among other things, it was discussed how to access the extensive smuggling controlled by Thomas Murphy, who was then IRA chief of staff. The Irish Minister of Justice apologizes for the security deficiencies of the Irish police that made the murder possible.
(Later, three former police chiefs question the Smithwick Tribunal’s conclusions, claiming that no real evidence was provided to prove that persons within the Irish police provided IRA with information leading to the murders of two Northern Irish police.)
Worst crisis over
Prime Minister Kenny announces that, as of December 15, Ireland is ready to do without international aid packages and emergency loans from the IMF and the EU and that the country does not intend to request new loan guarantees from the European Central Bank. Thus, Ireland can be said to be the first country to emerge from the euro crisis.
Requirements for an increase in corporate tax
German politicians are pressing for Ireland to be forced to raise its low corporate tax rate. However, Finance Minister Noonan announced that from 2015 Ireland will close the loophole in Irish law that multinational companies have been able to use to avoid paying taxes in their home countries. Among other things, a US Senate committee has criticized Ireland for Apple paying less than 2 percent in taxes on the $ 100 billion the company earned in 2008-2012. According to Apple, the low tax rate has been set after “negotiations” with the Irish government.
Avoid new crisis loans
At the Fine Gael party conference in October, Prime Minister Kenny said that Ireland will no longer be dependent on emergency loans from the EU and the IMF, but from the end of the year it will be able to borrow money on the open market again (see also Finance). At the same time, he stresses that much work remains to be done to rebuild the Irish economy. Both the EU and the IMF are pushing for Ireland to continue to save in the 2014 budget. Finance Minister Michael Noonan is also expected to do so, but EUR 2.5 billion instead of EUR 3.1 billion, which the EU and IMF want. The Irish government will still manage to keep the budget deficit below 5.1 percent of GDP, according to Noonan. The Fine Gael politician has chosen to proceed more cautiously to appease Labor’s coalition partner.
This time it is the older Irish who are hit hardest. An increased income threshold means that more than 70 years of age lose the right to free health care, a telephone allowance is canceled as well as a contribution of 850 euros for funerals, the so-called job search allowance for people under 25 is reduced from 144 euros to 100 euros a week. The alcohol tax is also raised. But the budget also contains some incentive measures such as an Irish variant of the Swedish root deduction, lower VAT in the tourism sector and the abolition of the air tax.
Voters want the Senate to remain, new court approves
On October 4, a nearly majority, almost 52 percent, of Irish voters voted against the government’s plans to abolish the Senate. The turnout is only 40 percent. The reason why the two government parties, with the support of Sinn Féin, have wanted to abolish the Senate is mainly economic (they would have been about savings of up to 20 million a year). The parties that want to keep the Senate are calling for it to be reformed. On the same day, voters in another referendum, with 65 percent of the vote, approve that an appeals court should be set up.
Yes to new abortion law
The Chamber of Deputies votes with great overweight to introduce a limited possibility of abortion. According to the bill, the intervention should be allowed if three medically knowledgeable people agree that a pregnant woman risks suicide if she has to give birth to the child. Four members of Fine Gael are excluded from the party after departing from the party line and voting against the bill. Previously, the country’s Supreme Court has ruled that it is not contrary to the Constitution if abortion is allowed in certain special cases (see Social conditions). The new abortion law must also be passed in the Senate before it can take effect.
The economy is shrinking
For the first time since 2009, Ireland’s economy is in recession, ie decline. The decline is mainly caused by falling exports and reduced domestic private consumption.
Tape recordings reveal bank bluffs
New revelations about Anglo Irish Bank awaken upset feelings. Recorded conversations between two senior executives indicate that they knew that the € 7 billion that the bank requested in emergency aid in 2008 was not enough to save it. The final bill eventually became € 30 billion, a note that Irish taxpayers must stand for. It is unclear whether the government was led behind the light or whether it did not conduct a sufficiently thorough analysis of the bank’s business. Assessors also point out that the government’s decision to guarantee all bank assets was made without it finding out whether the banks were insolvent or not, and that this was done with the support of large parts of the opposition.
Postponement with loan payments
At a summit, the euro area countries decide that Ireland, together with Portugal, will have another seven years to repay their emergency loans.
The government apologizes to exploited women
At the beginning of the month, a report is presented on the approximately 10,000 women who, during the years 1922-1996, were forced to work in the so-called Magdalene laundries run by Catholic nuns. It turns out that more than a quarter of them had been sent there by the Irish state, some of them for such small misdemeanors as they had traveled by train without buying a ticket. Initially, the government receives sharp criticism for not wanting to ask women for forgiveness, and for not bringing up similar cases in Northern Ireland. After several meetings with affected women, Prime Minister Enda Kenny gives an emotional speech in the Chamber of Deputies as he also makes a formal apology for the state’s role in the whole. A quick investigation should also be done to determine how women should be compensated, it would apply to all women affected in the Republic.
Anglo Irish Bank is wound up
Ireland reaches a settlement with the European Central Bank (ECB) on liquidation of Anglo Irish Bank on 7 February, which was taken over by the state in 2009. This meant a clear relief from Ireland’s debt burden, as debt securities of EUR 28 billion are replaced by new bonds with a maturity of 40 years and at lower interest rates. Interest costs for the central government are thus reduced to an average of 3 percent instead of 8 percent. For the government, that means it gets a billion euros more to deal with, compared to before. In some respects, the agreement is criticized because it is believed that the banks’ debts are bound to the state and that they have not succeeded in amortizing the debt.