Catholics now outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland

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Catholics now outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland

42.3% of the population of Northern Ireland now identify as Catholic, compared to 37.3% as Protestant or following other Christian faiths.

Catholics are now the majority in Northern Ireland, according to the results of a census released on Thursday. This is a historic reversal in this British province marked by inter-religious conflicts, which could encourage supporters of reunification with the Republic of Ireland.

Northern Ireland was born 101 years ago with a geographical division ensuring a Protestant majority there and thus power to the unionists, supporters of the connection with the United Kingdom. In the rest of the island, now the Republic of Ireland, Catholics are the majority.

Now, 42.3% of the population of Northern Ireland identify as Catholic, compared to 37.3% as Protestant or as faithful to other Christian religions, according to the results of this census published by the ;Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency [NISRA].

At the last census in 2011, 48% of the population identified as Protestant and 45% as Catholic or adherent to other Christian religions. In 2001, 53% of the inhabitants said they were Protestant and 44% Catholic.

More broadly, 45.7% of Northern Irish people say they are Catholic or raised in the Catholic religion, while 43.5% say they are Protestant or raised in this religion. The number of people claiming no personal or upbringing religious affiliation jumped to 9.3%.

Calls for greater equality between Protestants and Catholics – overwhelmingly in favor of reunification with the Republic of Ireland – had been one of the primary sources of violence in the three decades of Troubles. After 3,500 deaths, they ended with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which established a sharing of power between the communities.

The results of the census could thus on the table a reunification of the province with the Republic of Ireland.

Already in May, the Republicans of Sinn Féin, a former political wing of the IRA paramilitaries and supporters of reunification, won the local elections in Northern Ireland for the first time.

Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O'Neill hailed a clear sign of historic change taking place on this island and the diversity of society.

Ahead of the result, Unionists had tried to play down what a Catholic majority would mean on whether an independence referendum should be held. But according to the Good Friday agreement, London must hold a referendum if it seems likely that a majority of voters would express the wish that Northern Ireland should no longer be part of the Kingdom. -Uni.

Since May, the main unionist party, the DUP, has blocked the executive by refusing to share power with Sinn Féin until the post-Brexit provisions applying in the province are modified, believing that the customs border created de facto between Northern Ireland and Great Britain threatens the integrity of the United Kingdom.

In an attempt to calm tensions, the first British Minister Liz Truss, who at the time was head of diplomacy, introduced a law to unilaterally modify provisions of the Brexit agreement, straining relations with the European Union, but also with Joe Biden, of Irish origins.

Meanwhile, the new UK Minister responsible for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, has called on Unionists to return to the local Assembly by October 28 or face new elections could be called.

The division between Protestants and Catholics hides a diversity of opinions: the Alliance party, the province's third political force, is supported by the middle class of both communities and defends the idea of ​​a status quo.

A question in the census asks respondents of what identity they claim to be national: 31.8% feel only British, down sharply from 40% 10 years ago, 29.1% feel only Irish, and 19.7% say only North- Irish.

In addition to these tensions in Northern Ireland, the British government is also dealing with the desire for independence in Scotland, revived by Brexit, where the local government wants to organize a new referendum next year.

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