Almost nine in 10 Catholics in Ireland want priests to be allowed to marry
Survey of Catholics by Irish priesthood's unofficial association also finds 77% believe women should be ordained
Dr Edward Daly, the former bishop of Derry, who has called for priests to be allowed to marry.
An overwhelming majority of Catholics in Ireland want priests to be allowed to marry, according to a survey conducted on behalf of the Irish priesthood's unofficial representative association.
The Association of Catholic Priests' opinion poll, released on Thursday, found that 87% of Irish Catholics said priests should be allowed to marry.
The survey of 1,000 Catholics questioned over a fortnight in February by Amarach Consulting also discovered that 77% of believers said women should be ordained.
And 60% of Irish Catholics disagreed with the hierarchy's hardline on homosexuality. Only 9% of those polled "agreed strongly" with Catholic traditional teaching that homosexuality was immoral.
The report for the rank and file of Ireland's priesthood also revealed the à la carte attitude of most Catholics towards their faith in the republic. Only a third of Catholics said they attended mass once a week, although only 5% said they never went to mass.
Possibly as a result of the fallout from the Irish hierarchy's mishandling of the paedophile priest scandals, 55% of Catholics want their bishops to serve fixed terms. Under the current system, they remain in the role until they are 75.
Ireland's Association of Catholic Priests is involved in a bitter dispute between the Irish hierarchy and the Vatican over the Holy See's attempt to gag a liberal priest from Cork over his writings on celibacy, contraception and women's ordination.
The Vatican has told Father Tony Flannery – the editor of the Redemptorist Order's magazine Reality – that he should go to a monastery and "pray and reflect" on his situation. He came under fire from Rome after he questioned the papacy's hardline opposition to the ordination of women and priests being allowed to marry.
However, not all senior Catholic clergy have followed Rome's hardline position on issues such as celibacy – including one of the most famous bishops on the island.
Dr Edward Daly, who was bishop of Derry for 20 years during the Troubles, became the first senior Irish Catholic cleric to call for an end to celibacy in the church. His intervention last autumn in the debate was significant because he is still one of the most respected figures in the Irish Catholic church at a time when faith in the institution has been shattered by the clerical child abuse scandals.
The retired bishop, who tended the wounded and dying in front of television cameras on Bloody Sunday in 1972, said: "I think priests should have the freedom to marry if they wish. It may create a whole new set of problems but I think it's something that should be considered. I'm worried about the decreasing number of priests and the number of older priests. I think it's an issue that needs to be addressed and addressed urgently."