Catholics outnumber Protestants for the first time in Northern Ireland’s history

A newly published census has revealed that Catholics outnumber Protestants for the first time in Northern Ireland’s history.

A 2021 survey showed 42.3% now identify as Catholic, compared to 37.3% Protestant or other Christian faiths.

At the last census in 2011, 45% of the population identified as Catholic and 48% as Protestant or other Christian faiths.

In 2001, 53% of the population said they were Protestant, and 44% were Catholic.

The transformation of Northern Ireland – which was formed 101 years ago and suffered decades of communal violence at the end of the 20th century – is likely to embolden those pushing for reunification with the Republic of Ireland.

Protestants generally support Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom, while Catholics usually want closer relations with their southern neighbours.

Calls to join Ireland and leave the United Kingdom fueled violent clashes at The Troubles, which began in the late 1960s and saw an estimated 3,500 people killed.

The conflict ended with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which attempted to establish a balance of power between Catholics and Protestants.

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