eurel     Données sociologiques et juridiques sur la religion en Europe et au-delà


The largest Protestant denomination in the Republic of Ireland is the Church of Ireland, which is part of the Anglican Communion. Although always a minority church in Ireland it was the Established Church until disestablishment in 1871. According to the Census of Population there were 115,611 persons in 2002 who claimed to belong to this denomination, accounting for just under 3% of the total population. This number is somewhat higher than local records of church membership would suggest. The Church of Ireland is organized on an all-Ireland basis with the larger part of its membership being in Northern Ireland. In terms of size the next largest denomination is the Presbyterian Church with 20,582 persons amounting to half of one percent of the population. There are smaller numbers of Methodists, Orthodox and Pentecostals.
Historically Protestants in the Republic of Ireland are part of the larger Protestant population on the whole island of Ireland. Their earliest origins lie in waves of colonial plantation from Britain, especially in the 17th century. They opposed the native Gaelic Irish who continued to adhere to the Roman Catholic faith. The most remarkable feature of the Protestant population in the independent Irish state has been its numerical decline. Between the censuses of 1911 and 1926 the number of Protestants (three main denominations) in what is now the Republic of Ireland was reduced from 311,461 to 207,307. The decline continued since then, although at a lower rate, to its 1991 level of 107,423 but has shown a reversal between 1991 and 2002, which can be attributed to immigration.
A major concern of Irish Protestants during the twentieth century was the Catholic Church’s strict rules on intermarriage which sought conversions and pre-nuptial commitments on the Catholic upbringing of the children. Up to the 1970s the great majority of the children of intermarriages were brought up as Catholic. Since then, in line with Vatican II, there has been a major relaxation of the Catholic Church’s rules which has greatly improved Catholic-Protestant relations. The Church of Ireland continues to own and manage primary and second level schools, with state support, which most of its members attend, and which have substantial Catholic attendance.

D 21 septembre 2012    ARichard O’Leary

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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