F Rosa Rubicondior: Increasingly Secular Ireland as Catholic Church Declines

Saturday 1 June 2019

Increasingly Secular Ireland as Catholic Church Declines

Baby boom in the past as new figures show birthrates drop again - Irish Mirror Online

The degree to which the Irish Republic has rejected Catholicism in recent years can be seen in a few birth and marriage figures for 2018, released yesterday.

Traditionally, a typical Irish family of previous generations, following the diktats of the Catholic Church, would have been very large. My partner's mother, born into an Irish Catholic emigre family, was one of twelve children, for example. Her Irish-born grandfather from County Mayo, born just a few years after the famine, was one of fourteen children. By the time of the 2011 census, this was down to an average of just 1.38 children, itself a fall from 1.41 in 2006.

Figures released yesterday show the birthrate continuing to decline by 1.7% on 2017, a total fall of 19.4% on the baby boom peak in 2008. The birth rate per 1000 head of population is now down to 12.6 against 16.9 in 2008.

Perhaps the more significant statistic indicating profound social change is the number of births outside the formal married couple structure. Four in ten babies (40%) were born outside marriage with 59% of these to cohabiting couples. Long gone is the Catholic-inspired social stigma associated with birth outside marriage. This grotesque denial of a basic human right resulted in the obscenity of the mother and baby homes, like at Tuam and Bessborough, run by abusive nuns who saw their role as punishment for sin rather than caring for the mother and her baby and where dead babies, regarded as subhuman because they were 'illegitimate', were thrown into cesspits or sold to anatomy schools for a few shillings.

At the same time, women are increasingly controlling their own fertility with the average age of a new mother rising by a further .1 to 31.1 years of age. At the other end of the woman's fertile period, 6.7% of births were to women aged 40 or over. Women are choosing to start a family later in life, something only possible with access to effective contraception.

Marriage figures also reflect this increasing rejection of Catholic teaching. The marriage rate per 1000 people was down another .3% to 4.3. There were 664 same-sex marriages in 2018, only made legal recently. Irish couples are increasingly adopting cohabitation rather than religious marriages.

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