Data released from the Central Statistics Office’s April 2011 survey of Ireland show that the number of Catholics in Ireland is at a record-setting high. The data also shows that Ireland is becoming increasingly diverse.

The Irish Times reports on the religious statistics that were compiled during the April 2011 Census in Ireland.

84.2 percent of those living in Ireland identify themselves as Catholic, with a congregation of 3.86 million people identifying as Catholic.

The actual number of Catholicsin Ireland is at its highest ever. This is explained by the number of Catholic immigrants living in Ireland.

Large increases in the religions of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia, as well as the growing amount of people identifying as atheist also featured in the survey.

From 1881 to 1911, Roman Catholics represented just under 90 percent of the population in Ireland and saw its peak in 1961 at 94.9 percent. However, each subsequent Census year showed a decline in that percentage, with 2011’s being the lowest so far at 84.2 percent.

Eight percent of the 3.86 million Catholics in Ireland recorded during the 2011 Census were non-Irish nationals. Polish people accounted for the largest portion of the non-Irish Catholics in Ireland with 110,410, followed by UK nationals with 49,761 Catholics.

The Census data also revealed that there is a growing number of Atheists or non-believers living within Ireland, paving the way for an increasingly diverse population. 277,237 people identified themselves as being Atheist, agnostic or non-believing, a fourfold increase from 1991. The group included 14,769 children of primary school age, and 14,478 of secondary school age.

However, the Iona Institute cautions that the results may be misleading.

David Quinn, spokesperson for the Iona Institute, said, “Ticking the ‘no religion’ box can simply mean a person doesn’t belong to any particular religion, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are purely secular in their thinking, let alone that they are Atheists.”

“Not belonging to any particular religion is not the same as being irreligious,” added Quinn.

Deirdre Cullen, senior statistician at the Central Statistics Office, said the latest Census 2011 report shows the growing diversity of the population.

“This report again underlines the fact that Ireland has an increasingly diverse population where changing cultures and religious beliefs play an important part,” she said.