Catholicism in Ireland is a long tradition, dating back as far as St. Patrick, who is said to have brought Christianity to the island around 432 AD. Catholicism has played a major role in Irish life throughout the centuries. The Penal Years saw persecution of Catholics by English Protestants. Throughout the nineteenth Century, Catholicism offered hope and a way of life for Ireland's wretched rural poor. Throughout the 20th Century the Catholic Church again played a massive role in education, health care and welfare for the poorest in society. Recent years have seen several waves of sexual abuse scandals which have rocked the Irish Church to its very foundations. Mass attendance is at its lowest point ever and secularism is on the march in line with the economic explosion known as the Celtic Tiger. 
Nevertheless, Ireland is still ahead many other European countries in terms of numbers of people who profess belief in the Christian conception of God, with around 85-90% calling themselves Roman Catholic in recent Censuses.