The number of Irish people with no religion - atheists and agnostics - increased by 400 percent in Ireland between 1991 and 2011 to a total of 277,237.

The massive increase is due to a huge breakdown in trust between the Catholic Church and many of its traditional constituencies.

The sex scandals and cover-ups have deeply impacted the church, with record numbers staying away and embracing atheism.

The latest figures confirm a 2011 a poll by Gallup International, which showed that Ireland now ranks among the top ten atheist nations worldwide, in a huge shift from the last poll in 2005. In the six years between polls, according to the results, one in five Irish people set aside religion.

The Gallup International Association poll, titled the Global Index of Religion and Atheism, asked 50,000 people in 57 countries: “Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious person or a convinced atheist?”

In 2011, 47% of Irish respondents said they considered themselves religious, 44% not religious, and 10% convinced atheists. The global average has 59% of respondents self-identifying as religious, 23% as not religious, and 13% as convinced atheists.

When the same poll was conducted in 2005, 69% of Irish respondents identified as religious, 25% as not religious, and 3% as convinced atheists. The 2011 poll results reflect a 22% drop in Irish identification as ‘religious’ in the six years between polls, with a corresponding increase in the ‘not religious’ and ‘convinced atheist’ categories. The United States saw a 13% drop in identification as religious over the same period.

Ireland is tied with Austria, Iceland and Australia, with ten percent of respondents in the ‘convinced atheist’ category. That puts all four countries behind just seven others for the top percentages of convinced atheists. China was the least religious nation surveyed, with 14% identifying as religious, 30% as not religious and 47% as convinced atheists.

Also, Islam will become Ireland’s second religion in the next 30 years, according to new figures released by the country’s Central Statistics Office.

The Irish Independent reports that dramatic population growth and immigration will lead to a surge in the number of followers of Islam resident in Ireland.

The data comes a year ahead of the construction of the country’s largest mosque on the north side of the city at a cost of over $50million.

The three-storey Clongriffin center will be the largest Islamic religious complex in the State and will also boast a major cultural center.

The report says the mosque complex will be able to cater for more than 3,000 people and will feature two minarets, a prayer hall, a cultural center, offices, bookshop, a library, a mortuary, a crèche, a 600-seat events center, school, a state-of-the-art fitness center and apartment blocks.

The paper states that population statistics compiled by the Central Statistics Office confirm that Islam is now Ireland’s fastest-growing religion.

At current rate of expansion, Islam is set to become the second religion in Ireland after Catholicism by 2043.

In 1991, Islam accounted for just 0.1 percent of the Irish population and soared to 1.1 percent by 2011, when a total of 49,204 Muslims were resident in Ireland.

A strong birth rate and immigration will see Ireland’s Muslim population exceeding 100,000 by 2020.
Figures are not available for the population breakdown between the Shi’ite and Sunni branches of Islam.

The latest Census figures revealed that 84 percent of the Irish population describe themselves as Catholic, down from 91.6 percent in the 1991 census.

Orthodox Christianity is the second fastest growing religion in Ireland. Their numbers doubled in the space of five years, rising to 45,223 by 2011.

Protestants accounted for 5 percent of the population.