The Country of Ireland



The Country of Ireland

Population
Ireland has been inhabited since Stone Age times. For more than five thousand years peoples moving westwards across the European continent have settled in the country and each new group of immigrants, Celts, Vikings, Normans, English, has contributed to its present population. In 1841, shortly before the Great Famine, the area comprising the present Irish State had a population of over 6.5 million. The next census (1851) showed a massive decline to 5.1 million for the same area, due to deaths from starvation and disease and large-scale emigration.
The outflow thus begun became a dominant feature of the population pattern over the succeeding years. By 1961 the population of the State stood at 2.8 million, the lowest census figure on record. From 1961 onwards the pattern changed. A combination of natural increase and the commencement of inward net migration resulting from increased prosperity produced an average annual rise in population of 0.6% in the period 1981 to 1986. Between 1986 and 1991, largely as a result of the resumption of emigration, an average annual fall in population of 0.1% was recorded. At the 1991 census the total population of the State was 3,525,719. In 1994 the population was estimated at 3.571 million.
The major centers of population are Dublin (915,000), Cork (174,000), Limerick (75,000), Galway (51,000), Waterford (42,000), and Dundalk (30,000). 59% of the populations live in cities and towns of 1,000 people or more. Overall population density is 51 persons per square kilometer with large variations between the east and south, where densities are highest, and the less populous west of the country.
A high proportion of the population is concentrated in the younger age groups. Approximately 43% of the population is under 25 and approximately 27% is under 15. In 1993 for the first time on record the birth rate fell below the minimum population replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman during child-rearing age, to 1.93 births per woman. Total births in 1993 were 49,456 and, if present trends continue, the annual number of births could fall below 40,000 by the year 2007. This compares with a peak of 74,064 births recorded in 1980.
Religion
Freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion are, subject to public order and morality, Constitutionally guaranteed. The State guarantees not to endow any religion. The majority of the people belong to Christian denominations. At the 1991 census, approximately 92% of the population of the Republic of Ireland was classified as Roman Catholic, approximately 3% as Protestant (including Church of Ireland: 2.35%; Presbyterian: 0.37%; Methodist: 0.14%). There is a small but long-established Jewish Community (0.04%). The remainder of the population belonged to other religious groups, many of them newly-established in Ireland (Islamic: 0.11%, Jehovah’s Witnesses: 0.10%, etc.) or claimed no specific religious beliefs.
The main religious denominations are organized on an all-Ireland basis. They are as follows:
The Church of Ireland
The Church of Ireland is a Protestant Episcopal Church, an autonomous church within the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Church is organized into twelve dioceses. The Archbishop of Armagh is the Primate of All Ireland and the only other Archbishopric is Dublin. Chief legislative power lies with the General Synod, consisting of the archbishops, bishops, 216 representatives of the clergy and 432 representatives of the laity. The clerical and lay representatives are elected every three years. The Church of Ireland is actively involved in education and social services. The total membership of the Church of Ireland is around 380,000, 75% of whom live in Northern Ireland.
The Presbyterian Church

The Presbyterian Church is a Protestant Church of the Reformed tradition with a strong emphasis on the authority of the Scriptures in the life of the Christian. The Church has 558 congregations or parishes grouped into 21 districts called Presbyteries, and five regional Synods. These are all represented at the highest court of the Church, known as the General Assembly of ministers and elders. Elders are men and women elected by the congregation and are responsible for the spiritual welfare of Church members. The Assembly makes rules and decides the policies of the Church. It meets annually and is presided over by the Moderator who is elected to represent the Presbyterian Church for a one-year period. The Presbyterian Church in