How much money has been gifted to religious bodies by the Irish State?

Simon Lewis
2 min readFeb 11, 2024

Do you remember when the State tried to build the National Maternity Hospital on land owned by St. Vincent’s Hospital?

Thousands of people took to the streets to protest because of “concerns about possible external interference in the operation of the hospital.”

Now, why did that sound familiar?

I’m an avid X/Twitter user and I set my timeline to notify me every time the Department of Education puts up a post. Several times a year, there’s a post or repost of a politician welcoming an extension to their school building or a celebration of a brand new school building. My only thought when I see these posts is:

There’s another few million euro gone to the Vatican.

Much like the National Maternity Hospital, despite the State spending millions of tax payers’ money on these buildings, they don’t own them. They are “gifted” to the religious bodies. (I should point out that it is not only the Catholic Church but also Protestant bodies, so I change my thought slightly to a different place!)

But how much money is at play here? With the National Maternity Hospital, we were talking about a colossal €2 billion. Forget about the religious bodies — that’s a huge amount of money to be handed to any private body.

Schools are no different so I decided to find out exactly how much money is being gifted in the same way so I made a FoI request.

The FoI people offered me all the records from 2018 to 2022 and I accepted. All I needed was a snapshot…and I got it. After removing the projects that the State does own, I calculated the amount of money that is gifted to private religious bodies.

It’s €502m

That’s €100m on average per annum of tax payers money given with no strings attached to private religious bodies.

By the way, that doesn’t include the capitation grants of over €100m per annum that keep these buildings heated and in good repair. Yes, the State is also responsible for the upkeep of these buildings. Also, I’m probably anything from €10m to €30m short in that calculation because of small schools but this would take too long to explain here.

If we include the capitation grant, it would be safe to say approximate €1 billion was gifted to religious bodies by the State in the last 5 years.

It would be safe to conclude that every decade, the Irish State gifts the equivalent of a National Maternity Hospital to private religious bodies. How many people are on the streets about that?




Simon Lewis

Primary school principal, podcaster and poet. 👨🏼‍🏫 Writes about the Irish primary education system. Tweets from @simonmlewis