Last Updated: Wednesday, 09 July 2014, 13:04 GMT

July-December, 2010 International Religious Freedom Report - Ireland

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 13 September 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, July-December, 2010 International Religious Freedom Report - Ireland, 13 September 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e734c91a.html [accessed 10 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
September 13, 2011

[Covers six-month period from 1 July 2010 to 31 December 2010 (USDOS is shifting to a calendar year reporting period)]

The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom and, in practice, the government generally enforced these protections.

The government generally respected religious freedom in law and in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period.

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 27,136 square miles and a population of 4.6 million. According to the 2006 census, the religious affiliation of the population is 86.8 percent Catholic, 2.9 percent Church of Ireland, 0.76 percent Muslim, 0.68 percent unspecified Christian, 0.55 percent Presbyterian, 0.49 percent Orthodox Christian, 0.28 percent Methodist, less than 0.1 percent Jewish, and 6 percent unaffiliated.

An estimated 30,800 immigrants arrived in the country during the reporting period; almost half came from other EU states. Christian and Muslim Africans, other Muslims, and Orthodox Christian communities in particular continued to grow, especially in Dublin.

A poll conducted in October 2009 for the Catholic Iona Institute, based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,000 adults, found that weekly church attendance among Catholics was 46 percent; monthly attendance was 65 percent.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

Please refer to Appendix C in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for the status of the government's acceptance of international legal standards http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/appendices/index.htm.

The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom and, in practice, the government generally enforced these protections.

The constitution prohibits promotion of one religious group over another as well as discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, and the government does not restrict the teaching or practice of any faith. There is no state religion.

The constitution provides that "publication or utterance" of "blasphemous matter" is an offense punishable in accordance with law, but it does not define blasphemy. In the absence of legislation and in the uncertain state of the law, the courts have not prosecuted anyone for blasphemy in several years.

There is no legal requirement that religious groups or organizations register with the government, nor is there any formal mechanism for government recognition of a religious belief or group.

The government permits, but does not require, religious instruction in public schools. Most primary and secondary schools are denominational, and their boards of management are governed partially by trustees who are members of the Catholic Church or, in fewer cases, the Church of Ireland or other religious denominations. Under the terms of the constitution, the Department of Education must, and does, provide equal funding to schools of different religious denominations, including Muslim and Jewish schools. Although religious instruction is an integral part of the curriculum of most schools, parents may exempt their children from such instruction.

In 2003 the Equality Authority declared that church-linked schools are permitted legally to refuse to admit a student who is not of that religious group if the school can prove that the refusal is essential to the maintenance of the "ethos" of the school (for example, too many Catholics in a Muslim school could prevent the school from having a Muslim "ethos"). However, since that time, there have been no reports of any children being refused admission to any school for this reason. By law a religious school may select its staff based on their religious beliefs.

The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Saint Patrick's Day (the country's national day), Good Friday, Easter Monday, Christmas, and Saint Stephen's Day.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period.

In February a Muslim man took a case to the High Court demanding that the country recognize his polygamous marriage. The man was originally from Lebanon, where polygamy is permitted. He is married to two women and has Irish citizenship. The man entered Ireland with his second wife and claimed asylum. After becoming an Irish citizen, he attempted to bring his first wife to the country, but her visa request was denied. Liam Egan, a member of the Muslim Public Affairs Conference, accused the country of discriminating against Muslims in polygamous families. The case was pending at the end of the reporting period.

There were no reports of abuses, including religious prisoners or detainees, in the country.

Section III. Status of Societal Actions Affecting Enjoyment of Religious Freedom

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

In August an anti-Semitic Facebook site was taken down by the company. The name of the site was "The Invasion of Jews in Midleton" and contained anti-Semitic stereotypes and jokes about the Holocaust. Representatives of the Jewish community reported being saddened and startled by the incident.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. The U.S. embassy continued its engagement program aimed at fostering greater understanding of political, social, cultural, and religious views prevalent among Muslims in the country.

The embassy sponsored the first-ever conference on Muslim entrepreneurship in the country. The embassy's seventh annual interfaith Thanksgiving reception facilitated dialogue and understanding of religious freedom among governmental and nongovernmental organizations as well as among religious and community leaders; the reception also assisted U.S. government outreach to minority religious groups.

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