Religious holidays are the biggest reason people in Ireland have to wear a religious veil, according to the latest figures.
As of the end of January, more than 13 million people in the Republic of Ireland were covered by religious protection, including religious ceremonies, religious holidays, funerals, and marriages.
The number of people covered by this protection rose by 4.5% year on year in the past year.
The increase comes despite the Government announcing plans in March to make the wearing of religious veils a crime, and a ban on the use of religious symbols in the public square.
In April, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said that the Government was not looking to change the law.
“We have made it very clear that we want to see the wearing and the use in public of religious paraphernalia, of religious images,” he said.
“There is no evidence that the use is linked to religious belief.
The number of religious groups that have been protected is the same as the number of persons who are not covered by protection.”
However, some people have criticised the Government’s approach, pointing out that it is a clear breach of religious freedoms, particularly in light of recent events in the Middle East.
“I’m not going to be covered in the veil when I go to church,” said Mr Shatter.
“The Government has made it clear that it wants to see a change in the law, and it has been very clear about this in the recent past.”
People are not going anywhere and I think the Government is aware of that.
“He added that he does not believe it is necessary to ban religious symbols from the public sphere.”
What we are doing is trying to protect the right of the people to exercise their freedom of worship,” Mr Shitter said.
The Government’s religious protection figures are not the first to show a spike in the number covered by religion.
In 2015, more people were covered under religious protection than ever before.
According to figures released in February by the Department of Justice, there were 6,527,845 people covered under religion protection in Ireland.
This compares with 6,053,945 in 2016, 6,048,943 in 2015, and 5,717,928 in 2016.