Unionist commentator and advisor to David Trimble, Steven King suggests that the All-Ireland corks may have been popping too soon. He points out:
“Department of Education figures show that the proportion of children educated at Catholic primary schools is below 50% and is falling year on year by 0.2%. Looking at the youngest section of the population, the number of children admitted at P1 level last year at (Protestant) controlled schools was 11,675 but just 10,931 at (Catholic) maintained schools.”
However, these are very short term considerations. The census figures will take a long time to unwind to the point that they make a significant impact on the voting patterns. The recent switch in the first year figures that Steven alludes to may disguise the fact that many middle class Catholics are sending their children to high achieving state and integrated schools.
However the long term trend is a very slow swing towards a greater proportion of Catholics in the population. The effects of any demographic shift has a delayed and mostly permanent effect. Even a sudden and shocking drop in the Catholic fertility rate will likely be ameliorated by the rise in proportion of Catholic adults of fertility age in ten to fifteen year’s time.
It seems certain that this shift will continue to exert change within the body politic, but that change will be conditioned by it’s own gradual nature, rather than a sudden revolutionary moment. Politicians of all shades might do well to take heed of that aspect alone.