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

Catholics outnumber Protestants for the first time in Northern Ireland’s history, a recently released census has revealed.

The 2021 survey shows that 42.3% now identify as Catholic, compared to 37.3% as Protestant or other Christian faiths.

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

In 2001, 53% of the inhabitants declared themselves Protestant, 44% Catholic.

The turnaround in Northern Ireland – formed 101 years ago and which suffered decades of sectarian violence at the end of the 20th century – is likely to encourage those pushing for reunification with the Republic of Ireland.

Protestants generally support Northern Ireland remaining part of the UK, while Catholics generally want closer ties with their southern neighbours.

Calls to join Ireland and leave the UK fueled the violent clashes of the Troubles, which began in the late 1960s and left an estimated 3,500 dead.

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