Census: Catholics rise by 1%; Protestants down by 5%; Others are the unofficial winners

So Here it is Merry Christmas! It’s the census results. [Can’t believe it is ten years since the last one! – Ed]. Results are: Catholics up 1% Protestants down 5%. The Irish Times have this and other interesting details as well:

Information on the categories of “Religion” and “Religion Brought up in” showed that 45 per cent of the population were either Catholic or brought up as Catholic, while 48 per cent belonged to or were brought up in Protestant, Other Christian or Christian-related denominations.

This compares to a breakdown of 43.76 per cent Catholic, 53.13 per cent Protestant reported in the last census in 2001.

The core rates though are significantly different if you strip out the community background:

Catholic (41 per cent); Presbyterian (19 per cent); Church of Ireland (14 per cent);
Methodist (3.0 per cent); Other Christian or Christian-related denominations (5.8 per cent);
and Other Religions and Philosophies (0.8 per cent).

This might go someway to explaining why others are much more prevalent in the school stats that Kathryn Torney of the Detail put together a few weeks back. Suggesting both the Protestant and Catholic figures have been inflated by some considerable measure.

In fact it looks like the core figures for Catholic and Protestant are almost neck and neck with others still in third place but much closer to 1/5 of the population.

On national identity, the British are still way ahead on the passport question:

Almost three-fifths (59 per cent) of people usually resident in Northern Ireland held a UK passport, just over a fifth (21 per cent) held an Irish passport, while 19 per cent held no passport.

And we’re getting older:

The population of children aged under 16 years fell from 24 per cent in 2001 to 21 per cent in 2011, while the proportion of people aged 65 years and over rose from 13 per cent to 15 per cent over the same period.

And in Language, ability in Irish is dropping [see Con’s comment below] and Polish is now the main non English language:

English was not the main language for 3.1 per cent of residents aged 3 years and over. The most prevalent main language other than English was Polish which was the main language of 17,700 people or 1 per cent of the population.

Among those aged 3 years and over, 11 per cent had some ability in Irish in 2011 compared with 10 per cent in 2001, while 8.1 per cent of people had some ability in Ulster-Scots.

The statistics office have a pdf of all the headline figures here..

  • Harry Flashman

    This thread has got funnier and funnier since I left it last night.

    We’re told ad nauseum that the Unionists are the ones who feel vulnerable, threatened, confused about the future, unsure of where their allegiances lie and lack confidence in their beliefs.

    Ha! Not so as you’d notice from this thread where all the unionists seem to be chuckling in delight at the paltry number of people in Northern Ireland who regard themselves as unequivocally “Irish” (the massive majority of Catholics back in my day without any shilly-shallying).

    It’s the unionists who seem to be perfectly confident that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom for the foreseeable future while so-called “Nationalists” are tying themselves in knots trying to explain how people who identify with the once unspeakable “Northern Ireland” are really secret Irish Nationalists!

    Lord help us.

    You do all remember what “Northern Ireland” means to Irish Nationalists don’t you? It’s the gerrymandered, artificially created, sectarian six-county statelet; the bastard abomination of British treachery, a foul carbuncle on the map of Ireland that no self-respecting Irish Nationalist could even bring himself to call by its name let alone claim allegiance to it.

    So Irish Nationalists are all cool and hip with the Wee Six now are they? Nice to know.

    The Unionists have won then after all, the game’s over and the so-called Nationalists realise this. As their religion went so went their nationalism.

    Terence O’Neill was right.

  • GEF

    “This thread has got funnier and funnier since I left it last night.”

    Indeed, the 21 % who say their nationality is neither Irish or British but Norn Irish are no doubt Alliance party members & supporters.

  • derrydave

    Harry – NI is the gerrymandered, artificially created, sectarian blah, blah, blah to some of those of us who are particularly interested in history or politics. To the rest it is just the place where they live – doesn’t mean they wouldn’t prefer a united ireland, just that they don’t really give a xxxx for the intricacies of what they should call the place.
    Those who define themselves as Northern Irish can hail from one or the other political persuasion – they certainly won’t be 100% one way or the other.
    As far as Unionists chuckling in delight and Nationalists tying themselves in knots hmmmm – you don’t really believe that it’s as clear-cut as that now do you Harry ? Chuckling in delight as they see the decline of the protestant community to below 50% for the first time since the inception of the state ?

  • RoC[6.29] That’s exactly the point I’ve been making, that the obsession of unionist politicians in dismissing the idea of a UI, is beside the point. The real reason for these riots is less about flags and more about actual power in NI lost forever to them. We have, as nationalists two palatatable options, to push the exit button on the statelet, or stay in while holding the threat to ensure good behaviour from orangemen and gradually hollowing out the faux Britishness they claim to favour. We know there’s no love from across the water for the ‘loyal Ulster’ brigade, [they’re not so easily fooled], and they are the ones panicking at the census meltdown. Still the one percent increase in a decade for catholics doesn’t add up, when put along side the five per cent drop for protestants. Something fishy going on there.

  • SK


    You’ve found about eight ways of making the same point, and it’s still a piss poor one. You simply cannot extrapolate someone’s entire political philosophy simply because they use a term that doesn’t fit the caricature you have of them in your head. Do you still not grasp utterly, utterly desperate it makes you appear?

    Incidentally, your whole “fuck you, croppies!” approach to discourse is incredibly off-putting.

  • boondock

    danielsmoran. Im guessing that you expecteda 5% drop in Protestants to equate to a 5% rise in catholics. I think the main reasons is just there is difference in the birth and death rates of protestant commumity background, catholic community background and other. I think the big riise in other is among the young, mainly children of mixed marriage. Some will have ditched their religion but here is the thing you declare no religion but you still fall into one of the community backgrounds

  • I see there have been references to the late Horseman. He used statistics as propaganda for Nationalists but he also made excellent observations about some of the trends. In tribute to him, I have set out some of what he said about this census before it took place. Here is his prediction for the headline statistics. Here it is:

    Per year, NI population grows by around 12800, of which around 8500 is ‘natural growth’ (migration muddies the water, so I have to ignore it).

    Natural growth is deaths (around 14500 per year, of which 65% Protestant) and births (around 23000 per year, of which around 45% Protestant).

    Putting all that together, it is likely that Protestantism has gained less than 1000 souls per year, while Catholicism has gained around 7500 per year.

    Over 10 years that adds up to a lot more Catholics than Protestants (and of course many of the migrants will also be Catholic Lithuanians, Poles, Brazilians, Philipinos, etc). The Protestant ‘natural incresae’ over 10 years will be barely 10000, while the Catholic natural incresae will be around 75000.

    So I would expect that the 2011 total of 1815000 (-ish) will include around 815000 Catholics (not including migrants), giving a percentage of about 45%. Protestants will still outnumber Catholics, but will only be a whisker over 50%.

    These are very approximate estimates, and the effect of migration is entirely unknown, so the percentages could be a point or two off. We’ll have to wait and see!

    He also hammered home the point that it is only elections that matter at the end of the day.

    “Censuses do not give up their results overnight like elections, of course, and thus while 2011 may provide political shocks at Assembly and Council levels, the census will dribble out its results over a longer period, and influence political discourse for a number of years. It will provide enormous amounts of data for politicians and demographers to pore over, and to argue over. But at the end of the day the most important factor in political decision-making remains election results. No matter what the census tells us about national identity, if a majority of voters vote for nationalist parties, this trumps the census. For that reason, while the political census next year is interesting, the elections will be vital.

    Read the whole thing here.

  • Greenflag

    Has anybody considered the effect of outward migration from Northern Ireland in the period 2001 to 2011 on these census results ? I suspect that they may have had some impact on the ‘declared ‘RC ‘ community background number as well as on the younger cohort (18 -24) Protestant community background figure ?

    I suspect also that the ‘nones ‘ while they may be composed of a majority of those of a Protestant community background nonetheless contain a large minority of ex RC’s .

    It may be that the Protestants 5% decline figure is just a forerunner of the next census’s Catholic decline figure as more people in particular the younger and better educated cohorts bid farewell to their former ‘denominational ‘ identity tags /badges .

    This of course does not mean that they are waving goodbye to their background community’s political /party /constitutional allegiances or preferences .

    But it will mean that these increasing number of ‘nones’ who have learnt to think for themselves in matters of faith or who have gone through the great ‘unlearning ‘ of religious convictions ‘ will be much less amenable to follow the precepts of those of purist constitutional convictions be they orange or green ?

    Just some added thoughts ?

  • Harry Flashman

    “Incidentally, your whole “fuck you, croppies!” approach to discourse is incredibly off-putting.”

    Perhaps you could point to where I made such an obnoxious remark or have the decency to withdraw your offensive allegation.

    As anyone who knows me will confirm I argue my case forcefully, robustly and occasionally in a wind-up manner but I never resort to crude sectarian or other such abuse, I leave that to others.

    Please withdraw your remark.

  • derrydave

    Agreed Harry, you can be patronising, smarmy, self-satisfied, and irritating – but have never known you to be sectarian or abusive 😉

  • Boondock. Not exactly to mirror the 5% fall on other side but at least close to that. In ’91 the rise in catholic numbers compared with the previous one was 3%, the same 3% for ’01 from ’91, now only 1%. Odd.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Harry, you can be patronising, smarmy, self-satisfied, and irritating”

    Aw Dave, you say the nicest things, I work hard at it.

    How’s Derry today? You know this is about the only time of the year I get sentimental about the oul’ place.

  • Greenflag

    @ danielsmoran ,

    The words past performance is no guarantee of future performance or results -holds just as true in population projections as in investment sales brochures . The 2% drop over 10 years could be explained by outmigration among those of RC community background -whereas the 5% decline in those of Protestant community background can be explained by a combination of the higher death rate of an elderly population plus a smaller birth rate plus outmigration of the younger age cohort to college in Britain with few returning .

    Can’t see any other factor other than that a small minority of those of an RC community background simply did’nt return the census forms .? .

  • Billy Pilgrim

    ‘f*** you, croppies…’

    That one made me laugh out loud. Harry – maybe you SHOULD just come out and say this some time. It might prove cathartic.

    (Of course I’m aware that you are, yourself, a croppy, albeit one who has seen the light…)

  • Billy Pilgrim

    (I must admit, I have a soft spot for Harry. Always good craic. I always have a soft spot for prodigals.)

  • Sean Og

    Harry Flashman makes an interesting point about O’Neill being right all along. Pity it took 50 years for that particular penny to drop.

  • @danielsmoran in rough terms the way I see it is that given the overall population rise of 110k (7.5%), then those of Catholic background account for 70% of that population rise. I may be wrong but I’m guessing declining mortality rate at the other end would mean that the Protestant drop of 5% is due to ‘dilution’ with all the new Catholics. That still leaves the vast majority of octogenarians in the Protestant camp. Tipping point?

  • derrydave

    Couldn’t tell ye Harry as I’m on the other side of the planet – will be back there next week for my mandatory 2 weeks at home for Christmas though ! Hard to beat a few pints on Waterloo street with all the chattering, last-minute shoppers, familiar accents, and excitement around Christmas !

  • Greenflag

    Seymour Major @ 12 December 2012 at 10:37 am

    Well said above re the late Horseman – real name -Ian Livingstone . In re of his predictions of the 2011 census results Ian Livingstone can in retrospect be seen as the Nate Silver (USA’s No 1 election result predicter) of Northern Ireland’s changing demographics and it’s probable impact on NI politics . .

    I’ve just re read his predictions re this particular census and they are amazingly accurate .

    BTW Seymour that link did’nt work directly on to the info on your post so heres another for those who may be interested in the rest of Ian LIvingstone’s thorough analysis .


  • Greenflag

    For those interested in the traditional 9 county Ulster (of GAA, Rugby and Hockey provenance ) these census results when added to the 300,000 approx population of Donegal + Cavan + Monaghan (the formerly sold out counties of 1920) would give Ulster (9 Counties ) a total population of 2,100,000 in which there would be an RC community background majority of about 220,000 or in percentage terms what Paddyreilly terms the PUL community would make up about 42% of the population of a 9 county Ulster .

    Across the island of Ireland the PUL community now makes up about 875,000 of 6.5 million people or 13.5% of the total .

    Yep the 1920 gerrymander worked or did it ?

  • Harry Flashman

    Are you still in SE Asia Dave? It will be a big shock from the steamy tropics in rainy season to Waterloo Street in December.

    Watch out for next Friday night though, one place I have never liked being is Waterloo Square at closing time on the Friday before Christmas.

    Memories of the crunch of broken glass underfoot, the roaring drunks who’ve been out spending their Chrissie bonuses since lunchtime, the mile-long queues for taxis and the piss and puke everywhere is enough to disabuse me of any sentimental notions of the Yuletide in Derry.

    Though you can’t beat the sight of Derry in the snow (if you’re lucky) looking out from the hill in the Waterside on a bright Christmas morning, Jesus, I’m slipping again.

  • simtrib

    It may be that the Protestants 5% decline figure is just a forerunner of the next census’s Catholic decline figure as more people in particular the younger and better educated cohorts bid farewell to their former ‘denominational ‘ identity tags /badges .

    I’d say that this is a dead cert now. In a sense we can see it already in the current figures. 1.97% of Northern Ireland’s population were born in an A8 accession country according to the 2011 census. The majority and probably most of those people are either Catholic or brought up as Catholics, and we know for a fact that they were not here prior to 2004. That’s not including the Catholic immigrants since 2001 not from the A8, the Portuguese in Dungannon, the Filipinos. Together these people could easily account for the 1.4% increase in the Catholic community background population in it’s entirety, and even if they don’t they’ll certainly account for most of it.

    See also how in several council areas the Catholic Community background figure is shrinking. Are these areas with little A8 immigration?

    However note also that much of this is an artifact of how these figures are collated. Note the LFS and how when you ask people their community background we get a smooth change rather than sudden drops shown in the 2011 census, or indeed the 2001 census.

    The reality is that,
    *since 2001 the nationalist % of the vote has been entirely static
    *since 2001 those 16+ saying they are from the mainly Catholic community has been static
    *since 2001 census CCB has increased by 1.4%, but this can it seems be entirely accounted for by immigration from those outside the British Isles in that period, which could explain the lack of corresponding rise in the nationalist vote or self identification in the LFS in that decade
    *in several council areas like Newry and Derry the Catholic CB % is already on the decrease

    Barring some other extraordinary event like the A8 accession, which was an extraordinary event, the smart money must be on the CCB background % figure in 2021 being less than it was in 2011.

  • JR

    “since 2001 the nationalist % of the vote has been entirely static”

    In the 2001 local gov election the combined Unionist vote was 47% and the combined nationalist vote was 40%

    In 2011 the combined Nationalist vote was 42%, combined Unionist was 44%

  • simtrib

    more people in particular the younger and better educated cohorts bid farewell to their former ‘denominational ‘ identity tags /badges .

    Oh but I don’t entirely agree with that characterisation.

    A) It’s not entirely about abandoning identity tags, for example Pat Condell would be Catholic Community Background since as he keeps reminding his viewers he was brought up Catholic. Indeed Richard Dawkins would be recorded as Protestant Community Background as well. It’s more a measure of the depth of the secularisation process, which is why this affects the Protestant figures more than the Catholic ones, which corresponds to the different stages that secularisation is at and reflects what is happening in Great Britain and around the world as well, Catholic secularisation 20 years behind Protestant secularisation.

    B) While putting down “atheist” on a census form may be, putting down “none” or “no religion” does not indicate that someone is more highly educated or middle class. For example “nones” are over-represented amongst the UK prison population stats as compared to the census, and prisoners are not generally well educated.

  • DerryDave[9.03] It’s all very convenient the new question put in to the census last year in an oblique way so as to avoid the real relevant story of this census[that only 3% seperated the two sides and that wouldn’t suit the civil service friends in unionism. And Lo and Behold, the BBC and UTV pounced on this as their prefferred headline story to reassure their unionist viewers The question would have been more honestly put by asking which political entity do you identify with , because as it is, the people of Donegal, Cavqan and Monaghan could say they were northern Irish, and this is what cathol;ic rspondents would have meant, but the media here spin it as support for Northern ireland. So that’s the dishonest option so as not to scare the horses.

  • Ulidian


    Your count there is wrong & it’s based on the 2nd worst choice of election after the Europeans (really crap turnout) – council elections generally have crap turnouts & lots of votes go to “independents”.

  • simtrib


    “since 2001 the nationalist % of the vote has been entirely static”

    In the 2001 local gov election the combined Unionist vote was 47% and the combined nationalist vote was 40%

    In 2011 the combined Nationalist vote was 42%, combined Unionist was 44%

    I’m pretty sure those figures are not right though local elections are a fiddly business what with deciding which independent candidate is a unionist or not and so on, and so probably best ignored in favour of the other election on the same day (usually). In any case we can’t cherry pick.


    2001 Westminster election – Republican/Nationalists 42.7%
    2003 Assembly election – Republicans/Nationalists 40.5%
    2004 European election – Republicans/Nationalists 42.2%
    2005 Westminster election – Republican/Nationalists 41.8%
    2007 Assembly election – Republicans/Nationalists 42.0%
    2009 European Election – Republicans/Nationalists 42.2%
    2010 Westminster election – Republicans/Nationalists 42.0%

    and for 2011 assembly election which nobody on Wikipedia seems to have filled in yet

    Not sure about the independents but Sinn Fein + SDLP = 41.1% and nobody else listed there is obviously nationalist.

    I’m not a mathematical genius but I can still tell that if you did a least squares line of best fit on those figures you won’t get a line with much slope either way.

    I’d call those figures static with no obvious growth or decline trend just a bit of random variability.

  • ‘the 1920 gerrymander worked, or did it?’

    Greenflag, It would probably best not to suggest that to those gathering for the party in 2021 to ‘celebrate’ NI’s centenary as the margins would probably have flipped over by then. Pity about Tyrone not being dumped with the other three before pulling up the drawbridge back in 1921.

  • Ulick[12.43]

    The older age group of votersis not just a worry for unionists re a border poll at some distant point, but has more pressing worry for the DUP whose active electorate is made up of over 60s by two thirds of their total potential voters. With the next stormont election as much as four years away still, that’s not promising for Robbo’s stay in the FM chair.

  • PaddyReilly

    since 2001 the nationalist % of the vote has been entirely static

    Not so, if you look at the Euro results for that period, and these are the best for the purpose because parties with a political message are largely overshadowed by a straight ussuns/themuns vote, you will find that the number of votes by which the Nationalist side is short of its second quota is steadily coming down:-

    THE SECOND NATIONALIST CANDIDATE: votes short of a quota

    1994 84,752 (with undistributed SDLP surplus of 22,025)
    1999 50,319 (with undistributed SDLP surplus of 21,028)
    2004 28,789 (with undistributed SF surplus of 7,221)
    2009 18,676 (with undistributed SF surplus of 5,040)
    (In 1994 SF put up 3 candidates, so I added their totals together.) I

    …while the number of votes by which the Unionist side is in excess of two quotas is also coming down:-

    THE SECOND UNIONIST CANDIDATE: votes in excess of a quota

    1994 no final redistribution
    1999 15,036
    2004 9,738
    2009 (11,113 UCUNF surplus) + DUP deficit of -5,422 = 5,691.

    The Unionist vote is coming down by a fairly consistent 1,000 per annum and the Nationalist going up by 2,000 per annum. In this case also we would expect them to cross over some time late in 2016 or in 2017.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Come on nationalists get your …. out! You can’t miss Gerry’s deadline and allow things to slip into 2017!

  • OneNI

    It does appear possible that the Irish Catholic (identifying) population is in fact falling – as many of the migrants are of Catholic extration and perhaps more loyal to their relgious background than many post-Child Abuse Irish neighbours

  • Greenflag

    Both simtrib and paddyreilly above use election percentage results as their guides to what is taking place demographically and yet some 45% of the electorate don’t even bother to vote ?

    I don’t know what the ‘return’ rate for completed and accurate Census forms is but there is either a larger number of non returns than may have been estimated or some other factor such as relative outmigration rates is involved .

    Overall though it’s clear that in the younger than 30 age groups those of a RC community background are very much a majority and assuming the other factors involved across both communities remain broadly the same then the underlying demographic shift has to have a major impact during the next decade . Whether it’s enough to turn the FM position over to an RC community background politician at the next Assembly election is not yet seen but there is certainly that possibility within the next decade .

  • PaddyReilly

    Simtrib’s data from above is faulty because he ignores the fact of multiple choice voting and bases his percentages purely on the first preference vote.

  • PaddyReilly

    Both simtrib and paddyreilly above use election percentage results as their guides to what is taking place demographically

    No, I use election votes as my guide to electoral trends and census data as my guide to demographic events. Curiously, it does seem that the rise of nationalist voting follows the same lines as the rise in the Catholic population, and the fall in Unionist voting the same as the fall in numbers of Protestants.

    some 45% of the electorate don’t even bother to vote

    How do you know this? All electoral registers are out of date, you can’t prevent people from dying, moving away, being in comas etc. The percentage voting goes up and down: it is low for local government and highest for Westminster, I think, and even there, highest in constituencies where there is about to be a major change, as when Martin McGuinness won his seat.

  • I would tend to agree with the view of PR at 4.29 pm re the European Elections.

    The fact that the second Unionist candidate and the second Nationalist candidate are approaching parity was probably one of the big factors behind Jim Nicholson’s decision to run for election in 2014.
    Maybe we will see Alliance or SDLP take that third seat in 2019

  • SK

    I’ll do no such thing, Harry, as the tenor of your responses pretty much speaks for itself.

    If you can’t take it, then best not to dish it out.

  • Much as I’m enjoying the fun with the figures this week, the fact remains that the voting patterns tend to reflect the broader demographic changes albeit with a time lag.
    Hence the fun and games in Belfast this week.
    The Unionist narrative seems to be that the Union is being chipped away at while the Nationalist response is to find that hilarious on the one hand, due to the fact that any expression of nationalist identity was verbotten for many years or, on the other hand to encourage outreach and accommodation on the basis that Unionism needs reassurance.
    What Unionism really needs in my humble opinion, is to face facts and start living in the real world and the real world has moved on. Rapidly over the past ten years.

  • antamadan

    The most interesting item in the census is the % catholic and protestant background BY AGE; and I don’t think we have that yet, or can someone give a link.
    In 2001 the catholic background % was greater than the protestant only up to the age-group 20-24 (so say up to 25).
    Now if in 2011, the catholic background majority over the protestant background % goes up to 30-34, (say 35), this would seem to be a tipping point would it not? I.E. like it or not, it would mean that those most likely to have babies in the future would be catholics; and that this would be the first time ever that this was the case.
    Of course, if this is not the case and we just a load of catholic kids, who will leave through emigration/migration south in adulthood, that would negate the above expectation.
    Does anyone know when/if this interesting information will become available?

    In the past, poorer catholics had more kids than richer protestants; and poorer people seem to have more kids than the rich the world over. It would seem that unionists who would go to any lengths to protect the union, should postively discriminate agains protestants and favour the catholics, as only if CNRs become richer than PULs will they have smaller familes. 2001’s data below

    2001 FAMILY BACKGROUND + = Cath. Majority over Prot.
    Cathlolic Prot. Non-Chr None Minus = Protestant majority over catholics
    0-4 49.07% 43.11% 0.40% 7.43% 5.96%
    age5-9 49.45% 44.92% 0.35% 5.28% 4.54%
    age10-14 50.41% 45.33% 0.29% 3.98% 5.08%
    age 15-19 51.44% 45.16% 0.30% 3.10% 6.28%
    age 20-24 49.47% 47.00% 0.49% 3.04% 2.47%
    age 25-29 45.97% 50.42% 0.60% 3.02% -4.45%

  • Greenflag

    @ paddyreilly ,

    I don’t disagree with your general point re the high correlation between the rise in nationalist voting with the rise in people of that community background and the reverse drop in unionist voting with the relative decline in that population as a percentage of the total.

    As to the voting turnout -the last NI election had a 55% average turnout across the province that’s where I got the 45% non voters . I don’t know enough to argue the finer detail but I doubt that death , moving away and out of date registers would account for 45% of the electorate ? 10 or 15% perhaps ? If it was anymore I’m sure the local politicians on both sides would be be heard from Bangor to Belleek ?

    And how accurate is the census itself ? 99% ? 99.5% ? 98% ? It’s not going to be 100% .Does anyone know ?

  • ‘…..what unionism needs to do is face facts and start living in the real world….
    BangorDub’ I suppose the DUPwould say about that is’ the real world will have to face facts that unionism doesn’t have to respect the other sides culture, or respect demographics because they will kick up such a rumpus on the streets, that the British will cave in and redo the boundaries so they can do as they please’ I fear they’re going to be disappointed this time, as the taxpayers of old England have been watching their antics and are unimpressed. There could be an attempt to end the subsidy by westminster or drastically cut it, especially after Scotland leaves, which they will in the end and that will expose the lack of loyalty shown over here.

  • Mack

    First past the post style elections wouldn’t be the best for identifying shirt term demographic shifts, demographic change tends to happen reasonably slowly & the potential for change / incentive to vote non-tactically is lowest in FTP elections. Turn out differentials between constituencies with a genuine contest (inter or intra tribe) will seriously skew things as contests get settled and new ones emerge over time elsewhere.

  • BlackBush

    Hi, I’ve been a long time viewer of the site and I decided it was time I added my tuppence worth. Regarding the census I can’t help thinking that counting the number of Protestants and Catholics seems a bit outdated in 2012, it perhaps had some relevance whenever people were all devout churchgoers but asking someones religious beliefs and then somehow deriving their nationality or political aspirations seems unbelievably shallow, in fact pretty sectarian, especially when 17% declined to actually state any. When I look at the numbers I have to agree with some of the other posts here that the Catholic population is at best static and more than likely on a slight decrease being bolstered by Eastern European and Filipino immigration, the Protestant population has suffered a dip of a couple of percent, due to an older demographic but mostly I believe due to many younger Protestants choosing no religion on their returns. Since there seems to be an obsession by many on here with the hope that one day Cathoics will outnumber Protestants how do they view the impending entry of Romania into full EU membership, as far as I’m aware they are of an Orthodox persuasion, so definitely not Catholic, how would a couple of hundred thousand Romanians affect the next count?

  • Sp12

    “while so-called “Nationalists” are tying themselves in knots trying to explain how people who identify with the once unspeakable “Northern Ireland” are really secret Irish Nationalists!

    Lord help us.”

    I wish he would save me from being remotely analysed by ex-pats whose frame of reference is bishop street/buncrana road in the 70s/80s or whatever. I might even pick up the rosary beads again in thanks.

  • SP12 In any case saying you’re northern Irish, is a simple description of a region of the island as opposed to identifying with Munster, Leinster or Connacht. No title is referred to, just the province.

  • Mack


    “Since there seems to be an obsession by many on here with the hope that one day Cathoics will outnumber Protestants how do they view the impending entry of Romania into full EU membership, as far as I’m aware they are of an Orthodox persuasion, so definitely not Catholic, how would a couple of hundred thousand Romanians affect the next count?”

    Won’t make any difference to the ratio of Catholics to Protestants. But would make an overall Catholic community background majority less likely (than if they don’t come).

  • BlackBush

    @Mack, I suppose what I’m trying to say is the old Catholics versus Protestants argument is pretty meaningless, take a look around the Linsburn Road area of Belfast and you’ll how fast the demographics of NI are changing, I see women wearing burkahs some mornings, unthinkable 3 years ago. In 10 years the number of people claiming to be Catholic may well outnumber the number of people claiming to be Protestant but I suspect they will both be outnumbered by the number of people who claim to be no religion or another religion. 17% stated no religion this time, in 10 years it could be 30% who knows, I suspect the dividing them into Protestant not stated and Catholic not stated approach has gone past its sell by date, if someone says they have no religion then thats it end of story. The real question in NI is are they happy to remain in the UK in a pluralist multi cultural society or do they want to unite with the Republic, that question is becoming less and less to do with religion, particulary in the more populated East of the Bann areas and more to do with how people view themselves. I honestly don’t think there will ever be close to a majority who would vote for unification, this census I think is as close as Nationalism is ever going to get, the numbers are only going to get worse from here on in.

  • Red Lion

    I just find it a little odd that if you are on the side of the fence of a ‘United Ireland’ , why would you choose ‘Northern Irish only’ rather than ‘Irish’? Do republicans/nationalists not find this a little disappointing?

    Also, i find it a little odd that the 40% ‘British only’ couldn’t bring themselves to tick the Northern Ireland box also – ‘British and NI’ getting only 6%??Main reason for this that i can think of is that perhaps people thought you could only tick one box??

  • PaddyReilly

    The ‘others’ don’t actually effect the crucial votes. They have no opinion as to whether there should be two Irelands or one, or whether the Union Flag flies on Belfast City Hall. But if they stay long enough, and intermarry, they will be hijacked onto one side or the other: I believe that certain Copts, or half-Copts, have been co-opted (pun intended) to the Unionist cause. But if the two sides are near enough 50/50, the number of Rumanians intermarrying on the Protestant side will be equal to that on the Catholic side.

  • Mack


    It’s a fair point on those who stated ‘no religion’, very few people in NI do leave it at that though. In fact one commentator said this “but mostly I believe due to many younger Protestants choosing no religion on their returns”. Wonder who that was? 🙂

    The rise of the none’s does seem to correlate with the recent resurgence of Alliance.

  • BlackBush

    @Mack, your right I can’t say they should be left to have no religion and then try and assign them one myself, although what I was trying to say is that they will have political aspirations, perhaps I should have used the term ‘unionist’ rather than Protestant, although I believe even the term unionist won’t fit how these people see themselves, I think most of them are happy just to let things be, which is why the number of people voting in elections is in a serious decline right across the board.

  • Mack


    “It does appear possible that the Irish Catholic (identifying) population is in fact falling”

    The proportion / percentage of Irish Catholics of the total in NI is almost certainly falling. Absolute numbers are still increasing (i.e. an absolute increase of 80k, possibly just over half of which were immigrants). ( A corrallory of this is that the proportion of NI population which is Ulster Protestant is also falling & and is also a minority within a plurality – increase in secularisation or not).

    Immigration at the rate experienced by NI will signifcantly reduce the proportion the native population constitutes of the total. (e.g. If you have 10 bottles of Heinekin and someone gives you a Carlsberg and an additional Heinekin – the proportion of Heinekin’s of the total beers will fall by around 10% despite an increase in the actual numbers of Heinkins).

  • SK

    There is corollary to that point, Red Lion, is there not?

    If all of those people who ticked “Northern Ireland only” are in fact dyed-in-the-wool unionists, why didn’t they go for the “NI and British” option instead? Wither unionism amongst those people?

    My best guess would be that we are bearing witness to massive outbreak of indifference when it comes to the old tribal arguments. We’re fighting over a rump that simply doesn’t seem interested in following the usual tribal patterns of behaviour.

  • latcheeco

    Re taking comfort/straw clutching from immigration

    Northern Ireland has free Catholic public schools. Where do people think devout little Polish Latvian Lithuanian Portuguese babies are going to go, and in a short while after, what football tops do you think they’ll be wearing.Why do you think the Punt wants to secularise schools?

  • Gopher

    An important thing to remember is 2004 was along time ago and I see a lot of immigrant children under 5 which fall into the born in Northern Ireland category. Immigrants generally arnt old so they will be skewing figures for a long time to come ie they wont be dropping like flies like us.

    Look at Belfast’s figures 6 thousand more Catholics, 12,000 less Irish Catholics. You can see were they went Lisburn, Antrim and Newtownabbey and yes Castlereagh

    Look at Dungannon 8,0000 more Catholics but I think that has more to do with the 5,000 Portuguese deciding to have kids than Nationalist political strategy.

  • Gopher

    Northern Ireland has free Catholic public schools. Where do people think devout little Polish Latvian Lithuanian Portuguese babies are going to go, and in a short while after, what football tops do you think they’ll be wearing.”

    Man U, City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Barca and Real Madrid.

  • latcheeco

    But you get my point. The schools are nationalist in ethos and play gaelic games

  • Gopher

    I think football will win out. Ask yourself this if you cant convince the majority of Northern Irish Catholics that a united Ireland is the solution what hope do you stand with a Portuguese kid. Seriously the jig is up for this place Unionist and Nationalist its in black and white in this census. Try to make this place work. Digging in until you can indoctrinate a Lithuanian kid its madness.

  • Republic of Connaught


    You forgot Liverpool. I can’t forgive that sort of omission.

    And Ulster Catholics haven’t voted on a united Ireland yet, but they will when they’re in a majority. So let’s not declare what they want until they have voted.

  • Gopher

    Sorry and Liverpool

    I dont doubt an Ulster Catholics Irishness for a second and I dont doubt if all the planets are in line he will vote for irish unity but that could be 30 years from now it could be 50 years it could be next week whatever. In the meantime the dig in till we out breed them is no less insane than if we cant out breed them we will indoctrinate European children.

  • Republic of Connaught


    I believe there will definitely be a border poll in 15-20 years when there is a Catholic majority. Whether that results in a yes vote I haven’t a clue and neither does anyone else, whatever bluster the politicians talk.

    But I agree from now until then people from both communities need to try to improve northern society for everyone living there, whatever the future holds

  • Decspur

    I wouldn’t look too much into Catholics regarding themselves as Northern Irish. The younger ones are just being realistic, they are labelled as Northern Irish by all the nations around then until they are able to vote themselves into a united Ireland. If they really wanted to stay be Northern Irish long term then surely the Nat/Rep party’s would only get 25% of the vote which is just not the case.

    In short they will call themselves Norther Irish until the day comes that the world sees them as Irish and nothing else.

  • latcheeco

    Oh I wasn’t hitching my wagon to the immigrant star because it’s patently unnecessary, but some people were trying to use European immigrants to ease their demographic pain and I pointed out that that might not work given the community that they will probably assimilate into- not to mention they probably dislike kicking the Pope even more than we do:). BTW I see you never mentioned our two most popular teams Celtic and Linfield

    “if you cant convince the majority of Northern Irish Catholics that a united Ireland is the solution”

    All i’d say about that is who says they’re not convinced already.They consistently vote for nationalist parties who in turn at the first chance vote to remove symbols of unionist power and as of yesterday morning we’re in brand new psychological territory. So who now knows what they’ll do?

    I’m not saying their aint lots of tame taigs- Ireland has always had a majority of them- but now they’ve got the keys to the asylum what unionist would be confident that the greening that’s been relentless for the past century doesn’t continue, and then how many unionists would want their kids to stay and grow up in a state where the majority party of govt. is run by ex-ra men anyway ?

    The raison d’etre for the state is gone! Now it just a catholic/nationalist argument between second rate service sector jobs with a drop of fearmongering thrown in versus optimism and patriotism.

    And in the meantime against that backdrop you can try and make a shared future work all day long but unfortunately for those hoping Northern Ireland can survive and thrive, unless you address the kulchur war it’s a groundhog day that eventually even those you are relying on will get tired of.

    And the tragedy for unionism is that without sectarian triumphalism they’d have won, and most of them still can’t see it.

  • Gopher

    Optimism and patriotism.

    There is also cold blooded reality and that census is a big dose of it. Nationalism just like Unionism has had it’s day the people aren’t voting and they are joined immigrants who aren’t voting. The flag vote one can debate will encourage or dissuade people to vote but I know which horse my money is on. Good tip when the sane in a democracy see in this area vote 1,2,3 posters they tend to abandon the sheep dog trial that is politics here. Who’s tame now.

  • Jagdip

    On the off-chance that anyone is still looking at this particular cold case, does anyone know how a columnist in the Irish Times last week could claim “weeks after the latest census figures confirmed, yet again, that only one-third of Northern Ireland’s Catholics want a united Ireland.”

    I have pored over the Census results and the best I can see is that 738k identify as Catholic and 533k identify as Irish only. I know that Census 2011 was the first time that identity was asked about, but I can’t see how you could deduce that only one third of Catholics wanted a united Ireland from Census 2011. I have quickly looked over the comments and can’t see anything that would lead to this conclusion.

    Is this just another case of the Irish so-called “paper of record” being misleading or just plain wrong (again)

  • Jagdip,
    Yet again journalism in Ireland is becoming a series of opinion pieces, blogs if you will.