The massive increase is due to a huge breakdown in trust between the Catholic Church and many of its traditional constituencies.

The sex scandals and cover-ups have deeply impacted the church with record numbers staying away and embracing atheism.

The latest figures confirm a 2011 a poll by Gallup International which showed Ireland now ranks among the top ten atheist nations worldwide, in a huge shift from the last poll in 2005. In the six years between polls, according to the results, one in five Irish people set aside religion.

The Gallup International Association poll, titled the Global Index of Religion and Atheism, asked 50,000 people in 57 countries: “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?”