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Proportion of non-religious in Northern Ireland hits record high

The proportion of people in Northern Ireland identifying as non-religious has hit a record high according to new figures released today. The latest Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey found that 20% of adults now consider themselves to have ‘no religion’, a rise of 3% from the previous year. The proportion of non-religious people in Northern Ireland now exceeds that of every other religion or belief group except Catholics (36%), with Presbyterians accounting for 18% of the population and those who identify as Church of Ireland/Anglican/Episcopal 14%.

The findings are consistent with those of other recent polls, including the British Social Attitudes Survey and the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, which have established a long-term trend towards a population which is increasingly non-religious. Indeed, the most recent British Social Attitudes Survey found that the number of people saying they belong to no religion has grown from two in five (43%) to a more than half (52%) over the last decade.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said: ‘Northern Ireland is frequently referred to as a ‘Christian country’ and it is certainly the case that Christianity has a huge and disproportionate influence over public life and policy. However, these figures, which provide yet more evidence that the population is becoming progressively less religious and more diverse over time, show that such claims are increasingly unjustifiable.

‘With these trends set to continue, it is vital that policy-makers in Northern Ireland address the role of religion and belief in public life and ensure that areas such as education are not segregated along religious lines. Northern Ireland is a pluralistic society. Its schools and other public institutions must urgently be reformed to reflect this.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

View the Northern Ireland Life and Times survey data.

Read our article on the most recent British Social Attitudes survey.

Northern Ireland Humanists is a part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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