Catholics outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland for the first time in what has been described as a “hugely significant and historic moment”.
Results from the 2021 census released yesterday showed that 45.7% of Northern Ireland’s population are Catholic or from a Catholic background, compared with 43.5% from Protestant or other Christian backgrounds.
The census was carried out 100 years after Ireland was partitioned to create a Protestant region in the north committed to union with the UK. At the time of partition, Protestants made up about two-thirds of the population of Northern Ireland and it was expected that they would always constitute the majority.
Therefore, said The Guardian, the new census will “deliver a psychological hit to unionists”, who for decades have relied on a “supposedly impregnable Protestant majority to safeguard Northern Ireland’s position in the UK”.
The “demographic tilt”, as the paper described it, was expected, with higher birth rates among Catholics – who tend to identify as “Irish” while Protestants tend to think of themselves as “British” – closing the gap. In the census, the percentage of people who said they only identified as British sank from about 40% in 2011 (the date of the last census) to 32% in 2021, while those who said they were just Irish increased from 25% to 29%.
Noting that the results come soon after the elections in May in which the nationalist group Sinn Féin became the largest party in Northern Ireland for the first time, the FT said the census “could increase calls for a referendum on the region’s constitutional future”.
Source:: The Week – All news