Ireland has experienced a big fall in the number of people who describe themselves as religious, and has one of the highest percentages of atheists in the world, a new international poll has claimed.
The survey was commissioned by Gallup, and carried out in 57 countries throughout the world. Red C carried out the poll in Ireland, using an online sample of 1,000 last December.
It found that only 47pc of Irish people described themselves as religious, compared to 69pc in 2005, a fall of 22pc in just seven years. This was the second highest fall in any of the countries surveyed, after Vietnam, which saw a decline of 23pc of people describing themselves as religious.
It found that 10pc of Irish people describe themselves as atheists. The poll placed Ireland in the top ten atheist countries out of the 57 surveyed.
In 2005, only 3pc of Irish people said they were atheists.
The exact question asked was: "Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious person or a convinced atheist?"
Overall, Ireland ranked as one of the least religious countries in the world, ranking 43rd out of 57 countries, with notably secular countries such as Finland, Iceland and Lithuania being ranked as more religious.
Globally, 59pc of people worldwide describe themselves as religious, 23pc think of themselves as not religious whereas 13pc think of themselves as convinced atheists.
The figure for ‘convinced atheists’ is significantly boosted by the 47pc of Chinese people who told pollsters they are atheists.
Overall, the poll showed that there was a fall of nine percent in the number of people globally who described themselves as religious, from 68pc in 2005.
Japan and the Czech Republic both have the second highest number of atheists with 30pc of those polled in both countries saying they are atheists.
According to the survey, Ghana is the most religious country in the world, with 96pc of people describing themselves as religious, closely followed by Nigeria, where 93pc say they are religious.
Macedonia was the most religious European country, with 90pc describing themselves as religious, followed by Romania, where 89pc of people said they were religious.
Despite the finding of the poll, Ireland still has one of the highest levels of Mass attendance in Europe, with roughly a third of Catholics saying they go to Mass each week and another 15pc or so saying they go to Mass around once every month.