The survey, which measured changes since 2005, found that those in Ireland who consider themselves religious had fallen by 22 per cent in 2011, from 69 per cent in 2005. In 2011 they stood at 47 per cent.

The survey was of 57 countries comprising 73 per cent of the world’s population.

Only Vietnam experienced a greater drop, of 23 per cent, over the same period.

Ireland was also found to be joint seventh among the most atheistic of the 57 countries.

The survey was conducted by a network of opinion pollsters affiliated to WIN-Gallup International. The findings were published in Ireland by Red C yesterday. The survey was conducted between November 2011 and January 2012.

Where its findings in Ireland are concerned it may be significant that the first of four statutory reports on clerical child sex abuse, the Ferns report, was published in October 2005. The Ryan report was published in May 2009, the Murphy report in November 2009 and the Cloyne report in July 2011.

The survey also found that between 2005 and 2011 those Irish who considered themselves “not a religious person” increased from 25 per cent to 44 per cent.

Intriguingly, the number of Irish who described themselves as “a convinced atheist” fell over the six-year period, from 13 per cent in 2005 to 10 per cent in 2011.