Education Equality: CSO 2018 marriage statistics indicate growing need for our schools to respect and celebrate diversity

Recently-released CSO Marriage Statistics 2018 reveal the growing religious diversity in Irish society

Latest statistics show that the proportion of couples choosing to be married in the Roman Catholic Church continued to decline last year, with Catholic ceremonies accounting for 47.6% of Irish marriages in 2018. This figure was 51.0% in 2017, 53.7% in 2016, and 56.7% in 2015. Over 96.2% of couples married in Catholic ceremonies in 1980.


The percentage of couples opting for a non-religious marriage ceremony in 2018 was 38.8%. This figure was 37.0% in 2017, 35.2% in 2016, and 33.7% in 2015. Less than 1.8% of couples married in a non-religious ceremony in 1980.


Education Equality attaches particular importance to the annual marriage statistics in the context of the Irish school system for two reasons: First, given that most Irish children continue to be born to married couples, these statistics relate directly to the demographic with the greatest stake in our education system. Second, because of the real choice that couples now enjoy in deciding how to celebrate their wedding, the marriage statistics act as a true barometer of religious belief and practice in Ireland today.


Speaking on the release of the CSO Marriage Statistics 2018, Education Equality Chairperson April Duff noted:


“For the first time ever, less than half of couples chose a Catholic marriage ceremony in 2018. This marks a significant watershed and clearly illustrates the growing number of non-religious families in Ireland. Today, more than ever, it should be clear to us all that there is a widening disconnect between our denominational school system and the actual beliefs of young families.”


Policy Officer Paddy Monahan added:


“Non-religious marriages will eclipse Catholic marriages in popularity by 2020. These figures raise important questions as to where the children born to these couples will go to school, and how schools devoting at least half an hour a day to religious indoctrination can respect the children from families who do not consent to their children receiving this instruction. The current system, where 96% of schools are under the control of religious bodies and operate a religious-integrated curriculum with no effective opt-out, is clearly at odds with the diversity of our society that these statistics demonstrate.”


Education Equality is urgently calling on the government to compel schools to confine religious instruction to a period at the end of the school day, outside core school hours, in order to uphold the constitutional and human rights of all families to freedom of religion and belief.

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