Catholics outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland for the first time, according to the latest Northern Ireland census results revealed two days ago.
The 2021 Census results show that 46% of our population is now Catholic and 43% is Protestant or another Christian religion. According to the 2011 census, 48% of the population was Protestant or raised in the Protestant religion, a decline of five percentage points compared to 2001. The Catholic population was 45% in the last census, one percentage point more than in 2001.
While critics say religious breakdown is a crude barometer of public opinion about a possible united Ireland – Catholicism does not necessarily equate to nationalism – others see it as a direct link.
From Queen’s University School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, Dr. Peter McLoughlin said people should be very cautious before drawing political implications from the fact that Catholics now outnumber Protestants.
The latest results show that 32% of the population identify as British, 29% as Irish and only 8% as British and Northern Irish. Less than 1% consider themselves British and Irish only, and 1% consider themselves British, Irish and Northern Irish only.
This question about religion was included in the 2011 census, and 40% of respondents said they had a uniquely British national identity, 25% said they had a uniquely Irish identity, and 21% said their identity was uniquely Northern Irish. Looking at the 2021 Census results for passports, 47% of people in Northern Ireland only hold a UK passport, 27% only hold an Irish passport and 5% hold both.
People were also asked about their place of birth. 87% of respondents said they were born in Northern Ireland, 4% in England and 2% in the Republic of Ireland. Overall, 7% of the population is declared to have been born outside of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, witnessing an increase in immigration to the north of the island (and one only needs to go to Portadown and the surrounding towns to see the considerable extra-European immigration that has settled there).
As for main language, 95% of the population said they speak English and 5% said they speak another language. 12% of the population said they were proficient in Irish and 88% were not. When it came to the Ulster Scots language, 90% said they had no knowledge and 10% said they had some knowledge of it.
The first results of the 2021 Census, released in May, show Northern Ireland’s population has reached a record high of 1.9 million. Dr McLoughlin said there was a very strong link between religion and politics in Northern Ireland and the results indicated an increasing number of people identifying as nationalists.
Not what the numbers say, but what they suggest. I think it’s very complicated to say that the results will translate into support for a united Ireland, there are many other factors at play. Brexit has complicated the situation significantly and I think Brexit has created a bigger problem. But if we had a poll tomorrow based on this enthusiasm, I think there would be a lot of Catholics at this point who would be thinking very seriously about whether or not to vote for a United Ireland. I’m not saying that won’t change in the future, but there are a lot of people who think more about the NHS and a million other things like the economics of Brexit. We all know it would be the best of both worlds if we put our institutions to work. We are the only place on this island to sell the whole of the EU and the whole of the UK and we have butter and butter money.
Census in Northern Ireland: Other Lessons, European Immigration Doubling in Ten Years
Northern Ireland is an aging society. The largest increase in age in the population is in the over 65s. The number of people aged 65 and over has increased by more than 60,000 in the past 10 years to a third of a million, an increase of almost 25% since 2011.
Older people outnumber children in Northern Ireland. People aged 0 to 14 represent 19% of the population or 365,200 children. The over 65s represent 17.2% of the population or 326,500 official pensioners living in Northern Ireland. Of this figure, 2.1% (39,400) are over 85 years of age.
Belfast remains the largest city, with 345,400 people living within the city council boundaries. The population there is 97% white, but Belfast’s population growth has been almost entirely due to immigration, with Belfast’s white population remaining constant since 2011.
3.4% of Northern Ireland’s population, or 65,600 people, belong to minority ethnic groups. This figure is four times higher than in 2011 (1.8% – 32,400 people) and 2001 (0.8% – 14,300 people). 32,400 people) and four times more than the figure for 2001 (0.8% – 14,300 people). The The largest groups were mixed race (14,400), black (11,000), Indian (9,900), Chinese (9,500) and Filipino (4,500). Irish Travellers, Arabs, Pakistanis and Roma, 1,000 each.
Belfast has the lowest ratio of men, with 94.8 men for every 100 women. Rural areas tend to have a more equal distribution of men and women, while urban areas have more women. Belfast has 177,300 females and 168,100 males. Mid Ulster has about a 50/50 split, with 75,000 men and 75,300 women. Derry and Strabane have a ratio of 95.5 males to 100 females – females outnumbering males by 77,100 to 73,700.
District-wise population trends show that the largest increase over the past ten years has been in Lisburn and Castlereagh, at 10.6% (from 134,800 in 2011 to 149,100 in 2021). This increase can be partly explained by the increase in the number of new and affordable housing units. Derry and Strabane recorded the smallest increase (2.1%), with the population increasing from 147,700 to 150,800. Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon will increase by 9.5% from 199,700 in 2011 to 218,200 in 2021.
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