Among Dublin’s smart set it seemed the kiss of social death to admit to being a practising Catholic: it’s even vaguely unfashionable to be married, especially only once. Nonetheless, in the 2011 census, it emerged that 84% of the people of the Irish Republic described themselves as “Roman Catholic.” The number of atheists and agnostics and diverse other faiths was up too, but Roman Catholics remained the majority.
However, it is evident, especially in Dublin, that nominal inscription to a religion is one thing, while actual practice is another. Red C’s survey only confirms what is obvious anecdotally: that a substantial number of Irish people have ditched the religion of their ancestors because they think it no longer applies in an age of scientific rationality; because they rebuff “control” by ecclesiastics; because they are disgusted by the clerical scandals – indeed, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin is himself disgusted by what he has had to read in the archives; or because sex, drugs and accumulating electronic gadgets are more “relevant” to modern life than “God and Mary, His Mother,” as the traditional greeting in the Irish language puts it.
And yes, the forename of “Mary,” once so common that half the class at my convent school bore it, is now a highly unusual moniker among younger generations.