The bishops of the Church of Ireland at a recent General Synod in Galway
Church of Ireland Theological Institute
MTh Year II
TH 8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context:
Friday evenings and Saturday mornings,
December 2016 to January 2017.
Friday, 9 December 2016.
1.1: Anglican Studies in an Irish context, Outline of module, readings, essays, &c.
1.2: Who we are (1): an introduction to Anglicanism in Ireland today.
1.3, Who we are (2): an introduction to the Anglican Communion today.
The West Door, Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny … the Preamble and Declaration of 1870 says the Church of Ireland is “the Ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
1.2: Who we are (1): an introduction to Anglicanism in Ireland today.
Who are we?
The Preamble and Declaration adopted at Disestablishment by the General Convention of the Church of Ireland in 1870, offers us a four-point ‘solemn’ definition of the Church of Ireland on behalf of ‘the archbishops and bishops of this the Ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church of Ireland, together with the representatives of the clergy and laity ...’
1, The first point says the Church of Ireland:
(1), accepts and believes all ‘the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, as given by inspiration of God, and containing all things necessary to salvation,’ and continues to profess the faith of Christ as professed by the Primitive Church.
(2), continues ‘to minister the doctrine, and sacraments, and the discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded; and will maintain inviolate the three orders of bishops, priests or presbyters, and deacons in the sacred ministry.’
(3), as a reformed and Protestant Church, reaffirms ‘its constant witness against all those innovations in doctrine and worship’ that have ‘defaced or overlaid’ the ‘Primitive Faith’ and that were disowned and rejected at the Reformation this Church did disown and reject.
2, Secondly, the Church of Ireland receives and approves:
● The 39 Articles;
● The Book of Common Prayer;
● The Ordinal;
3, Thirdly, the Church of Ireland is committed to maintaining communion with the Church of England, and with all other Christian Churches agreeing in the principles of the Declaration, and seeks ‘quietness, peace, and love,’ among all Christians.
4, Fourthly, the General Synod, consisting of the archbishops and bishops, and of representatives of the clergy and laity, is the chief legislative and administrative power in the Church of Ireland.
[See: The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 776-777.]
Does that tell the casual reader of The Book of Common Prayer enough about the Church of Ireland?
On the other hand, in a perhaps more exhaustive way, the website of the Church of Ireland describes this Church in the following way:
The Church of Ireland:
● is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion which has 70 million members in 164 countries.
● is an apostolic church, maintaining an unbroken link with the early apostles and drawing on the apostolic faith in its teaching and worship.
● is a Catholic and Reformed church.
● is able to trace its roots to the earliest days of Irish Christianity.
● is a church with three orders of sacred ministry – Bishops, Priests and Deacons.
● has services which follow an accepted liturgical form and structure.
● has one prayer book – The Book of Common Prayer (2004) – plus other services authorised for use by the General Synod.
● keeps a balance in doctrine and worship between Word and Sacrament.
● has the Holy Communion or the Eucharist as its central act of worship.
● is one church embracing Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
● has around 378,000 members – 249,00 in Northern Ireland and 129,000 in the Republic of Ireland (Census 2011).
● has two provinces, Armagh and Dublin, each with an Archbishop.
● has 12 dioceses, over 450 parochial units and over 500 stipendiary clergy.
● is a representative church, with each diocese electing those who will represent them at the General Synod, the ‘Parliament’ of the church.
● has in its General Synod a House of Bishops which has 12 members and a House of Representatives which has 216 clergy and 432 laity.
● also has Diocesan Synods where representatives of the parishes meet usually once a year.
● has a parochial system where decisions at local level are made by Select Vestries whose lay members are elected each Easter by the people of the parish.
Is that a good enough, concise and precise, summary of the Church of Ireland?
How do you introduce family members, friends, neighbours, strangers to the Church of Ireland?
How were you introduced to the Church of Ireland?
There are other definitions of what it is to be an Anglican. And we shall encounter some of this in the course of this module, and as we look at the wider Anglican Communion.
Facts and figures
An analysis of the latest census figures (2011) by the Central Statistics Office was described in The Irish Times [19 October 2012] as providing us with a ‘Portrait of a population growing in diversity’ in the Republic of Ireland.
Alison Healy’s report says that analysis paints a picture of ‘an increasingly diverse population with a significant growth in people who say they have no religion, while also recording the largest congregation of Catholics since records began.’
Just five religious affiliations were mentioned half a century ago in the 1961 census, but the 2011 Census refers to more than 20 religious affiliations, and also has a category for ‘other religions,’ which was ticked by 56,558 people.
This latest census shows that the proportion of the population who are [Roman] Catholic reached its lowest point last year at 84.2 per cent, but the number of [Roman] Catholics, 3.86 million people, is the highest since records began.
This is partly explained because the number of [Roman] Catholic immigrants living in the Republic of Ireland: 8 per cent of the [Roman] Catholic population is non-Irish last year, with Polish people the biggest group at 110,410 Catholics, followed by those born in the UK, at 49,761 – which may include many people born in Northern Ireland.
Of the 3.8 million [Roman] Catholics in the state, 92 per cent are Irish, while the remaining 8 per cent belong to a range of nationalities. Among the non-Irish, Poles are the biggest group (110,410), followed by the UK (49,761) and between them they accounted for over half of all non-Irish [Roman] Catholics.
Interestingly, there are also 64,798 divorced [Roman] Catholics – 27,468 males and 37,330 females.
So, now that we have the statistics, what about the Church of Ireland?
As for the Church of Ireland, there are 129,039 members of the Church of Ireland, or 2.89 per cent of the population, an increase of 6.4 per cent in the five years since 2006 (118,948). This includes 13,667 primary school aged children and 8,809 of secondary school age.
One in 10 Church of Ireland members in the workforce has an occupation in agriculture and related activities. The figures show the Church of Ireland population has a much higher proportion involved in ‘Farming, Fishing and Forestry’ (7.1 per cent) than the population as a whole (3.6 per cent).
Co Wicklow remains the county with the largest Church of Ireland percentage of the overall population (6.7 per cent). Co Cavan is the second largest (5.8 per cent). Greystones, Co Wicklow, with 8.5 per cent Church of Ireland population, has been overtaken by Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, at 9.1 per cent, as the town with the highest percentage of Church of Ireland residents.
The overall number of people employed in ‘religious occupations’ has declined, from 6,618 in 2006 to 5,817 in 2011. But, interestingly, the numbers of Church of Ireland members employed in ‘religious occupations’ has increased, from 308 in 2006 to 316 in 2011.
Despite the RTÉ soapbox image of the Church of Ireland, not all of us are plumy rectors or from the landed gentry. There are strong working class parishes in parts of Dublin, including Finglas, Irishtown and Tallaght. And the backbone of many rural parishes is the same as Roman Catholic parishes: small shopkeepers, small farmers ... people like your parents.
These census figures help to show that the popular perception of a Protestant decline has been arrested if not reversed. But, to be honest, we do not know why.
Among other Christians, there are now 45,223 Orthodox Christians in Ireland – more than double the number in 2006 (20,798) and more than four times the number recorded in 2002 (10,437).
The members of Apostolic and Pentecostal churches rose in numbers from 8,116 in 2006 to 14,043 in 2011. Over 60 per cent (8,486) have African ethnicity, while 18.1 per cent (2,546) are from ‘any other White background.’
There are 24,600 Presbyterians, up marginally on 2006 and continuing a pattern of increasing numbers since 2002 following long periods of decline up to 1991.
The other Christian groupings are the Methodists (6,842), Lutherans (5,683), Evangelicals (4,188), and Baptist (3,531). Other Christian groups include Quakers (925), Brethren (336), the Salvation Army, and so on.
On the fringes of Christianity, there are Jehovah’s Witness (6,149), Mormons (1,284), Christian Scientists, and so on.
In terms of ecumenical relations at an inter-church level, this is certainly challenging. In past, we have traditionally spoken of the four main churches, meaning the [Roman] Catholics, the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterians and the Methodists. But the combined total of Presbyterians and Methodists at 31,442 is now eclipsed by the total number of Orthodox, and the Methodists have slipped behind the Apostolic and Pentecostal churches in numerical terms.
As for the non-Christian religions, there are 49,204 Muslims, making them numerically the third religious grouping in the state after [Roman] Catholics and the Church of Ireland, and marginally ahead of the Orthodox Christians.
Other religions in total account for 98,643 persons (2.1 per cent). The largest single religion in this group is Buddhist (8,703), and over one-third (37.9 per cent) are Irish by nationality. There are 1,984 Jewish people, up from 1,930 in 2006. The total of those with no religion, atheists and agnostics has increased more than four-fold in the 20-year period between 1991 and 2011 to 277,237 in 2011.
Some present pressing issues:
These census figures show that all churches and religious or faith groupings are living in a very different and a changing Ireland. We face new issues and challenges, changing social situations, and different expectations and demands.
In terms of cultural or ethnic background, 90,701 members of the Church of Ireland are of Irish nationality, and 30,464 are classified as non-Irish. The 14 largest minority backgrounds in this second group are:
UK, 21,474; Lithuania, 1,589; Nigeria, 1,534; Poland, 1,235; Other African, 590; Germany, 438; South Africa, 420; Latvia, 335; USA, 333; China, 303; India, 279; Australia, 239; Canada, 162; and Netherlands, 155. After that, it is down to double and single figures, but we even have one each from Bulgaria, Greece, Luxembourg and Malta.
The figures from the UK may represent many people born in Northern Ireland, and not just people from England.
There are more Lithuanians than Nigerians in the Church of Ireland, yet, while we have appointed a Nigerian priest to work with the African population, we have not appointed a priest to work with the large number from the Baltic and Nordic countries who are members of the Church of Ireland and who are our pastoral responsibility under the Porvoo Agreement.
What has this to say about our mission priorities?
There are 976 Church of Ireland members of the Travelling Community (3.3% of the total) – interestingly this is a higher proportion within the Church of Ireland than the proportion of the Church of Ireland population in the population as a whole (2.75 per cent), or the proportion of the Traveller community in Co Wexford as a whole (1,504, or 1.1 per cent), and more in number that the Travellers living in either Carlow, Kilkenny or Wicklow, for example.
But what has this to say to the Church of Ireland? Travellers are more likely to be unemployed, to live in poor housing conditions or in mobile or temporary accommodation, to have no sewerage facilities, to have ended their education at primary school, and to suffer from ill-health and disabilities. Yet the number of Travellers is as large as many a Church of Ireland, and our neglect of Travellers in the Church of Ireland is as much an indictment of our attitude to social justice as it is a test of our pastoral values.
The previous census in 2006 showed that in the Republic of Ireland, the Church of Ireland population had increased by over 46 per cent in recent years, but may be on the decline in Northern Ireland, according to a study of the census figures by the social statistician Malcolm Macourt of Manchester University.
In his book, Counting the People of God? The Census of Population and the Church of Ireland, Malcolm Macourt shows, through a comparison of the 1991 and 2006 census returns, that the Church of Ireland population in the Republic of Ireland had grown from 82,840 to 121,229 – an increase of 46 per cent over a 15-year period when the general population rose by only 20 per cent.
On the other hand, the Church of Ireland has seen a drop in members in Northern Ireland, along with many other churches, including the Methodist Church. The 2001 UK census shows the Church of Ireland in Northern Ireland had 257,788 members, or 15.3 per cent of the population. The 2011 census shows the Church of Ireland in Northern Ireland has 248,821 members, down to 13.7 per cent of the population.
The largest denomination in Northern Ireland is the Roman Catholic Church with 738,033 members or 40.8 per cent of the population, followed by the Presbyterian Church with 345,101 or 19.1 per cent.
So, it appears, the Church of Ireland is growing in the Republic, while it may be in decline in Northern Ireland, although in both places to be a member of the Church of Ireland remains being a member of a minority.
The Church of Ireland suffered a major decline in numbers during the 20th century, both in Northern Ireland, where around 65 per cent of its members live, and in the Republic of Ireland which contains upwards of 35 per cent.
However, the Church of Ireland in the Republic has shown substantial growth in the last three national censuses; its membership is now back to the level it was over 60 years ago – albeit with fewer churches and fewer clergy.
Church membership increased by 8.7 per cent in the period 2002-2006, during which the population as a whole increased by only 8.2 per cent.
Some cautionary comments
Of course, Church membership, counted according to Church affiliation entered after each name, does not equate with Church attendance, or active participation in the life of the Church.
Do census questions of religious affiliation receive “cultural answers”?
The statistics and census categories do not try to distinguish between:
● ‘being’ Church of Ireland;
● ‘behaving’ in a Church of Ireland way;
● believing what the Church of Ireland teaches.
Are we talking about:
● cultural attachment?
● religious label?
● tribal identity?
Is it possible that some people think that belonging is hereditary? After all, in many parts of Ireland we still talk about ‘Church of Ireland families.’
Indeed, there is evidence that the figures for membership of the Church of Ireland may have been exaggerated until the second half of the 19th century because people thought in terms of ‘Church of Ireland households.’
Some the ways membership may be defined when it comes to revising the Easter Vestry lists include:
● Being baptised
● Living within the parish boundaries
● Contributing regularly to the finances of the church
● Being an ‘accustomed’ member of the parish – going to church regularly in a particular church.
But what if you have been baptised in another tradition?
What if you have been baptised but not confirmed?
If membership is defined by practice, how often do you have to go to Church to be a member?
Once a week?
Once a month?
Once a year?
And if you stop going to church, how long should pass before you stop being considered a member?
How often should you contribute financially?
Is there a minimum subscription?
And, of course, many may not sign the forms to have their names entered on the vestry roll – because they think they may move to another parish later on; because they do not feel at home where they are; because they are reluctant to give more financially; because they fear being asked to sit on the Select Vestry or become a churchwarden; because, because, because ... who knows?
Decline in the past:
The figures show the Church of Ireland population in what is now the Republic of Ireland as follows:
Why did membership of the Church of Ireland go into decline from 1861, and in particular, in what is now the Republic of Ireland, from 1921 until the last two census counts?
Some of the reasons offered include:
● The impact of the Ne Temere decree from 1908 onwards on ‘inter-Church’ marriages.
● The ‘Great War’ or World War I.
● the migration of civil servants, military personnel and administrators after independence.
● The Civil War.
● Different fertility rates – in 1936, for example, the fertility rate for Church of Ireland couples was 54.7 per cent, barely half that for Roman Catholic couples.
James Craig famously described Northern Ireland as having ‘a Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people.’
On the other hand, the General Synod sent an official delegation to Michael Collins to ask if they were ‘permitted to live in Ireland or if [it is] desired that they should leave the country’ – this despite the role of many members of the Church of Ireland in the War of Independence, including Constance Markiewicz (Constance Gore-Booth), Erskine Childers, Sean O’Casey and Robert Barton, and that the first President of Ireland would be a son of the rectory, Douglas Hyde.
After partition, the Church of Ireland population continued to decline in the area that is now the Republic of Ireland.
Statistics show a noticeable decline particularly in both border counties and in provincial towns.
Surprisingly, emigration did not take the same toll, comparatively, as is often imagined.
In the period 1946-1961, 15 per cent of Roman Catholics emigrated, while 10 per cent of Protestants emigrated.
To what degree were numbers retained through maintaining separate social structures, such as schools, hospitals, sports clubs, dances, homes, orphanages, and so on?
Was there a presumed, unspoken definition of community?
Did we create a myth of a shared common ancestry?
Did we imagine a new, separate ‘ethnic group’?
Did we try to convince ourselves that we are a separate cultural community, united by common cultural traits?
The feeling of exclusion among many southern Protestants was exacerbated by a number of well-known cases:
● The Mayo Library case (1930);
● The Tilson children custody case (1950);
● The Fethard-on-Sea boycott in Co Wexford (1957).
Examples and exceptions:
Saint Nicholas’ Church, Galway … in Galway City, the Church of Ireland population grew from 260 to 1,383, a virtually five-fold increase (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
From 82,840 members in 1991 to 121,229 in 2006 is an increase of over 46 per cent in membership of the Church of Ireland in the Republic of Ireland. The latest increase by 7,810 to 129,039 is another rise, this time of 6.4 per cent.
Let me offer some examples and some exceptional statistics from the census before last:
The 2006 Census in the Republic of Ireland shows the numbers of people describing themselves as members of the Church of Ireland increasing in every county. The highest percentage growth was in the west – Co Galway, Co Mayo and Co Roscommon; and the largest numerical growth was in the mid-east region – Co Wicklow, Co Kildare, and Co Meath.
Co Wicklow is the county with the highest proportion of Church of Ireland members (6.88 per cent).
Trafalgar Road and the front of the former La Touche Hotel … in 2006, Greystones had the highest proportion of Church of Ireland inhabitants in any town (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
In 2006, Greystones, Co Wicklow, had the highest proportion of any town (9.77 per cent). According to the 2011 census, that place has been taken by Enniskerry, Co Wicklow. But if we look at parishes, then there are some unusual figures:
Donaghmore (27.3), Donard (7.5 per cent) and Dunlavin (7.4 per cent) is one parochial union in the Diocese of Glendalough.
In the six furthest western counties, taken together – Mayo, Roscommon, Galway city and county, Clare, Limerick city and county and Kerry – the Church of Ireland figures have more than doubled, from 6,831 in 1991 to 15,839 to 2006 – an increase of 9,008 or 132 per cent, and, I imagine, welcome news in the Diocese of Tuam and the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe.
In the midlands farming counties of Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny, North Tipperary, Laois, Offaly, Westmeath and Longford – the Church of Ireland figures have increased by almost 40 per cent, from 14,342 in 1991 to 19,972 – an increase of 5,630 or 39 per cent, and, I imagine, welcome news in the Diocese of Cashel and Ossory, the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe, the Diocese of Meath and Kildare, and part of the Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh.
On the other hand, in border counties of Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal the increase has been more marginal (3 per cent). Allowing for inward migration and natural increases, this may, in fact, reflect a decline in those counties.
There has been a major rise in the Church of Ireland in provincial towns. Between 1991 and 2006, the proportion of people describing themselves as Church of Ireland increased in 57 towns, and more than doubled in 19 of those towns. For example, according to the 2006 figures:
In Tuam, Co Galway, the Church of Ireland population grew from 10 to 121 – a twelve-fold growth, in Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, from 16 to 122, almost eight-fold.
In Ennis, Co Clare, the Church of Ireland population increased from 68 to 400 – a six-fold growth, in what is, numerically, the least Protestant county in Ireland.
In Galway City, the Church of Ireland population grew from 260 to 1,383, in Navan, Co Meath, from 111 to 541, and in Kildare Town from 32 to 177, virtually five-fold increase.
In Newbridge, Co Kildare, it grew from 91 to 402.
Remarkably, the only town showing a decline was Bandon, Co Cork, where – in a saying that reflected past differences and tension – it was once said ‘even the pigs are Protestant.’
The Church of Ireland population of Dublin city and county, and the neighbouring counties of Wicklow, Meath and Kildare, increased from 40,428 in 1991 to 53,642 in 2006 (37 per cent). This is below the overall figure of 46 per cent, but it means – if this trend is continued in an analysis of the 2011 figures – about half the Church of Ireland population in the Republic probably lives in two dioceses: Dublin and Glendalough, and Meath and Kildare.
We have fewer farmers and fewer urban working class members of the Church of Ireland. Almost half fit into the social statisticians’ category of ‘professional, managerial, technical’ – typical Irish Times readers, if you like.
On the other hand, an analysis of the census figures for 27 March 2011, show the Church of Ireland has seen a drop in members in Northern Ireland, along with many other churches, including the Methodist Church. The 2011 UK census shows the Church of Ireland in Northern Ireland has 248,821 members, or 13.7 per cent of the population – which is more than 26,000 less than the 275,000 on the website.
The largest denomination in Northern Ireland is the Roman Catholic Church, with 738,033 members or 40.8 per cent of the population, followed by the Presbyterian Church with 345,101 or 19.1 per cent.
So, it appears, the Church of Ireland is growing in the Republic, while it may be in decline in Northern Ireland, although in both places to be a member of the Church of Ireland remains being a member of a minority.
The Church of Ireland predominates among Protestants in the Lagan Valley, North Armagh, south Tyrone and Fermanagh, and parts of the far north of Co Antrim, as well as among the working-class population in Protestant areas of Belfast.
Looking at the difference
The nature of religion has changed in both the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland in recent decades.
However, Malcolm Macourt suggests that in the Republic ‘being’ Church of Ireland ‘seems to have still carried with it some connection with religious observance, as well as connection with Church-managed schools.’
In Northern Ireland, “‘religion’ was the label given to competing ‘tribes’.”
What does this mean for the future of Church of Ireland identity in those two regions?
How do we explain this phenomenon of growth in the Republic of Ireland?
Indeed, some rectors may be asking whether the data reflect a genuine increase.
Is it correct to presume that after a long decline ever since 1861, Irish Anglicanism is undergoing a period of growth?
Some of this growth is explained by immigration, but some is also due to members of the Roman Catholic Church transferring their membership to the Church of Ireland.
The reasons suggested for this increase include:
● The relaxation of the Ne Temere regulations that stipulated that children of Roman Catholic-Protestant marriages should be brought up as Roman Catholics.
● The decline in the fertility rate for Roman Catholics.
● The inward migration of English-born Anglicans – they may account for up to 80 per cent of immigrants who now declare themselves Anglicans in the census.
● The number of Anglican immigrants who have moved to Ireland recently from countries with a considerable Anglican population, such as Nigeria.
For example, in the Western counties that I referred to, counties that form the greater parts of the Diocese of Tuam and the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe, migrants contributed just over half the increase noted in 2006 (4,800 out of 9,008), with three-quarters of those coming from the UK.
In the Midlands counties, two-thirds of the 39 per cent increase (3,620 out of 5,630) was attributed to immigrants, of whom two-thirds were from the United Kingdom.
What are the challenges?
Responding to the 2002 census figures, the then Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Neill, said they did not come as a surprise. ‘When visiting parishes I have noticed an increase in many congregations, particularly in rural areas. I am very pleased to have it officially confirmed.’
However, he said the figures bring fresh challenges to the Church of Ireland.
He identified three important facts are reflected in the figures:
● In many parts of the Republic, and indeed overall, there are now many centres of growth in the Church of Ireland and the decline in the Church’s population has been halted.
● There are people claiming allegiance to the Church of Ireland who may not be in close touch with their local parishes. This reminds all members, clergy and lay alike, of our responsibility as a Church to minister to them.
● Fellow Anglicans from other Churches are making their home in Ireland, but while they are visible in local parishes, ‘we are not doing enough to make our churches more welcoming and open to cultures and worship other than our own.’
Creating and dealing with problems
The downturn in the economy over the past four or five years has seen a large number of immigrants who came to the Republic of Ireland from Eastern Europe, and who worked here as casual labourers, begin to return home. They are not going to show up in the rising unemployment figures, and once they are gone no-one is going to follow up their needs, pastorally, economically or socially. It will be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind.’
Those who remain may, I fear, as the ‘real’ unemployment figures rise further, face increasing resentment that may be expressed in racist terms. The jobs that were once despised, and left to Chinese workers who came here on ‘student’ visas, are becoming attractive once again to our own teenage and young adult children – the late night grille at fillings stations, the cleaning and casual labouring shifts, the stacking and shelving jobs in the middle of the night in supermarkets.
These are major moral issues for the Church today. Any outside observer or commentator looking at the Church of Ireland and the Anglican Communion over the past ten years or so would have thought the only moral issues we face are those that dominated the agenda at Gafcon and the Lambeth Conference in 2008.
But what about the major moral issues facing us in the Church today when it comes to welcoming the stranger in our midst and to providing pastoral care and support for our new immigrants?
The ‘stranger’ in our midst today
The changing face of Ireland? Polish magazines on sale in a shop in Capel Street, Dublin (Photograph Frank Millar/The Irish Times)
The statistics analysing the 2006 census returns in the Republic of Ireland produced unusual and curious details about the number of Greek Muslims, Chinese travellers, teenage widows and the two Maltese divorcees living in Ireland – perhaps they should be introduced to each other ... or perhaps their problems started when they were first introduced to each other.
They help us to underline the way in which we have all come to realise and accept: that Ireland has become a diverse and multicultural society. We never were a plain, boring, mono-cultural society. We have always been an island that has been diverse and plural because of the people who come to our shores: from the Celts, Parthalons and Vikings, to the Anglo-Normans, both English and French, the Gallowglass and the settler Scots; from the French in the Middle Ages, to the Huguenot refugees and the weaver of Dublin’s Liberties.
Who do you think are the single largest identifiable groups of people in the Republic of Ireland on any one day? And I mean among those who were not born in the Republic?
Despite the way we compile statistics, the two largest groups on any one day are:
● firstly, people born in the United Kingdom;
● secondly, tourists.
We do not notice the first group, because many of them were born in Northern Ireland or were born in England of Irish parents, and they speak and look like the vast majority of people here.
The second group we welcome with open arms. They provide us with income, revenue, and in economic terms the equivalent of exports – they bring in money from other countries, and, so, they are vital to a key sector of the economy.
I have never heard anyone complain in racist terms that the country is being swamped with Italian tourists. But I regularly hear gross exaggerations about the numbers of Nigerians and Somalis here.
Who are our immigrants?
So who are the strangers in our midst?
The census figures for 2011 show that Polish nationals (122,585), followed by those from the UK (112,259) are the largest non-Irish groups living in the Republic. The number of Polish nationals living here increased by 93.7 per cent between 2006 and 2011, while the number of UK nationals declined by 0.3 per cent.
Overall, 544,357 non-Irish nationals were living in Ireland at the time of the 2011 census, an increase of 29.7 per cent or 124,624 on 2006, some 12 per cent of the population.
The rate of growth was considerably slower than in the period covered by the 2006 census when the non-Irish population almost doubled to 419,733.
The sharpest percentage increases in non-Irish-born residents were among Romanians, with the population more than doubling from 8,566 to 17,995 (up 110 per cent) following EU accession in 2007 and people from India, where the community grew by 91 per cent to 17,856.
The largest rise in overall terms was, unsurprisingly, among the Polish-born community which grew from 63,090 to 115,193 (up 83 per cent) in the period.
The growth in the number of Polish-born people was more than five times that recorded in the Lithuanian community, which grew by the second largest number (10,039) to 34,847.
People born in England and Wales still account for the largest group of individuals living in Ireland that were not born here at 212,286. The rate of growth in the group was small by comparison to many countries between 2006 and 2011 at about 3.7 per cent.
Unsurprisingly, Polish – with 119,526 people – was the foreign language most spoken in the home, followed by French (56,430), Lithuanian (31,635), German (27,342) and Spanish (22,446).
More than 25 per cent of those who spoke a foreign language at home were born in Ireland. Of these, 13,690 were children aged three to four years; 26,569 were primary school children and 21,187 were secondary pupils.
In terms of ethnicity, 85 per cent of Irish residents identify themselves as white Irish, a 4.9 per cent increase on the 2006 census. Immigration from Eastern Europe helped to push the number of “other white” respondents up by 43 per cent to 412,975.
Almost two-thirds of those making up ethnic groups other than white Irish were aged 35 years or less. Just 3 per cent in these groups were 65 or older. In contrast, less than half of those in the white Irish group were aged under 35 and 13 per cent were 65 or more.
Recent research at Maynooth University found that more than 167 different languages – from Acholi to Zulu – in use by 160 nationalities among the people in Ireland as their everyday first language of choice.
Ireland has become a multilingual society, so that the 2006 census was conducted in 13 languages. Apart from English and Irish, these languages are: Arabic, Chinese, Czech, French, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian and Spanish. In addition, information was also available in Estonian, Magyar (Hungarian), Slovak, Turkish and Yoruba.
Asylum seekers and refugees are a very small proportion of the number of foreign-born people in Ireland at any one top, and their numbers are decreasing steadily.
But there are other, unhidden problems. For examples, look at the Latvians. At one time, the Irish mushroom industry, a multi-million Euro industry, and they have been of economic benefit to us. But for the Latvians this has meant:
● They are often exploited and paid below the minimum wage.
● They leave behind children who are cared for by grandparents – creating what the Latvian media has called a new generation of ‘mushroom orphans.’
● They are over-qualified for their jobs, so they are part of a brain-drain on Latvia, which has paid for their training and education and needs their skills.
● They are easy victims of racism. After one industrial protest, an American newspaper ran the headline: ‘For Irish, Latvians fill the role of bogeymen.’
There may be 60,000 Chinese living in the state, perhaps half in the greater Dublin area, and many are here on student visas and without work permits.
Patrick Comerford with the authors of a report on Chinese students and immigrants, Dr Lan Li of University College Dublin and Dr Richard O’Leary of Queen’s University, Belfast, in the Chapel of Trinity College Dublin in 2008
Many of the Poles are Roman Catholics, but worship in their own parishes and congregations. Many of the immigrants from the Baltic countries are Lutherans, and under the Porvoo Agreement they are full communicant members of the Church of Ireland while they are here. But we have very little pastoral or liturgical engagement with them, and many of them probably have no idea of who we are.
The Chinese have their own Catholic parish in Dublin, with Masses in Chinese, while the Chinese Protestant Church is a very conservative evangelical church.
However, despite the increasing popularity of celebrations such as the Chinese New Year celebrations in Temple Bar Square, Dublin, we know very little about the religious beliefs and practices of the majority of Chinese people here.
Despite their visibility, the number of Nigerians in Ireland is probably lower than many of the public estimates. Of the 30,000 Africans thought to be in Ireland, about 20,000 are probably Nigerians. They suffer racism not only from Irish-born people but from other Africans too. Yet they make a positive contribution to public life in Ireland: Rotimi Adebarai became Ireland’s first black mayor in June 2007 in Portlaoise. Other African communities in Ireland include people from DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan.
The Romanian population is largely Dublin-based. There may be 20,000 Romanians in Ireland. Although the numbers are dropping significantly at the moment, according to the priests of the Romanian Orthodox Church. They recently opened a new church in Hartstown in west Dublin.
They often complain that they are all categorised as Gypsies or Roma. Yet there may only be about 2,000 Roma in Ireland, and many of those come from other Easter and Central European countries, including the Czech and Slovak republics, the former Yugoslav republics, Bulgaria and Hungary.
Admittedly, the census statistics are always on the low side when it comes to telling us who is living among us. Too many people are too afraid and too scared to register themselves at census times, worried that once noted they may face discrimination or forced deportation.
Immigrants and the Church of Ireland
The Discovery services in inner city Dublin ... providing ‘Anglican liturgies with African flavours’
What has this got to do with the Church of Ireland today, with who we are and what our mission is?
Apart from the duty on church members to comfort those who are in fear and to welcome the stranger, it is important that we do not see those who have arrived among us in recent years as problems, either in themselves or in the reaction of some sectors of society and government. They enrich our society, and they enrich our Church life too.
If Ireland is not monochrome or mono-cultural, then neither is the Church of Ireland.
How is the Church getting it right?
How is the Church getting it wrong?
What are the challenges?
And what are the opportunities we can grasp in the Church of Ireland?
A positive example of the Church of Ireland has adapted and changed is provided by the Discovery programme based at Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s Church in inner city Dublin, including the Discovery services, choir and chaplaincy.
This has been positive for the church, for the parish, and for the international community. But it also led to other initiatives, such as the U2charist.
But success was only possible because the then priest-in-charge, Canon Katharine Poulton, now Dean of Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, was open to taking risks. And because her congregation was supportive as she took those risks.
The implications for ministry are obvious. We must be willing to be adventurous and innovative, who are risk-takers. We are ordained to be ‘messengers, watchers and stewards.’ But instead, parishes often want their clergy to be building surveyors, caretakers and boiler-fixers.
A negative example comes from hospital chaplaincy. I heard someone say recently not that he, but other members of the Church of Ireland, would not like the idea of a black African chaplain visiting the wards. Why not? He protested that he is not racist. But the implications are disturbing.
Many of our hospital and prison chaplains find themselves cast into the role of advocacy. They are the ones people – staff and patients or prisoners – turn to for advice about other minorities. Are our chaplains, lay and ordained, trained properly, and knowledgeable enough for this role in ministry?
There is a large new school in the Greater Dublin area under Church of Ireland management. Before September 2009, there were 58 or 60 children in the old schoolhouse, which was dilapidated and in need of repair or replacement. About half of those children were non-nationals.
The national school has moved to a new building. Other schools in area were giving priority to Roman Catholic children, and so their school rolls were full. After the new school opened under Church of Ireland management in September 2010, the number of children reached 240-250. Of these, 80% were Nigerian by birth or parentage, 10% were from Eastern Europe or other nationalities, and 10% were Irish-born. In the senior infants’ class, there were 31 children, of whom three were ‘white,’ and of those, only one is Irish-born.
Were the parishioners withdrawing their children?
Is this an appropriate move by that Church of Ireland parish?
What do you think are the positive and negative aspects of this scenario?
And of course, what are the implications for teacher training or for raising awareness among parishioners?
How best can we use our Church buildings? The former Church of Ireland parish churches in Harold’s Cross and Leeson Park are now being used by the Russian Orthodox and Romanian Orthodox Churches, while Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s, and the parish churches in Donnybrook, Swords and Tallaght have provided hospitality for various Syrian and Indian Orthodox communities.
How can we best use our church buildings to reflect the needs of the changing and changed Ireland?
A closing conundrum:
Some images and perceptions still have to be dealt with.
How do we relate all this to:
● The decline of the Anglo-Irish gentry?
● The loss of the substantial Church of Ireland working class population in Dublin (and perhaps soon in Belfast too)?
● The changing ethos of formerly Church of Ireland hospitals?
Is there still a sense of ‘Protestant identity’ – north and south?
According an opinion piece by Mary Kenny in the Irish Independent some years ago, 10 per cent ordinands in the Church of Ireland were former Roman Catholics.
Is that true today?
Three years ago (2013-2014), if you included deacon-interns and other categories among ordinands, the figure was 14.3 per cent. Two years ago (2014-2015), the figure was below 7.2 per cent. Last year (2015-2016), the figure was 10 per cent. This year (2016-2017), the figure is 7 per cent. Does it matter?
What are the social consequences – for Roman Catholics and for the Church of Ireland?
How does this compare with England, where some Anglicans – including some bishops – have become Roman Catholics?
If religion is inextricably linked with culture, then how does the Church of Ireland engage with the context of the culture in which it flourishes in the Republic of Ireland?
And how might these figures eventually impact on how the Church of Ireland in the Republic relates to its closest neighbour?
Heather Crawford, Outside the Glow: Protestants and Irishness in Independent Ireland (Dublin: UCD Press, 2010).
Patrick Comerford, Embracing Difference (Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing, 2007).
Guidelines for Interfaith Events & Dialogue (prepared by the Committee for Christian Unity and the House of Bishops of the Church of Ireland, Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing, 2007).
Malcolm Macourt, Counting the People of God? The Census of Population and the Church of Ireland (Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing, 2008).
A. McGrady (ed), Welcoming the Stranger: Practising hospitality in contemporary Ireland (Dublin: Veritas, 2006).
Richard O’Leary and Lan Li, Mainland Chinese Students and Immigrants in Ireland and their engagement with Christianity, Churches and Irish Society (Dublin: Agraphon Press, 2008).
Gordon Wynne, Pastoral Care in the Recession (Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing: 2009).
1.3: Who we are (2): an introduction to the Anglican Communion today.
Tomorrow (10 December 2016):
2.1: Early Irish Christianity and the Anglican reformations in the 16th century.
2.2: The Tudor, Stuart and Caroline Settlements.
(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture, on 9 December 2016, was part of MTh module, TH 8825, Anglican Studies in an Irish context, (part-time, Years III-IV).