EFor the first time in the 101-year history of Northern Ireland more Catholics than Protestants live in the British countryside. In a census from 2021, 45.7 percent of the almost 1.9 million inhabitants described themselves as Catholic or raised Catholic, as the statistics office in Belfast announced on Thursday.
That was a slight increase of 0.7 percentage points compared to census ten years ago. However, the number of people who see themselves as Protestant or raised as a Protestant dropped significantly from 48 percent to 43.5 percent. 9.3 percent do not feel they belong to any religion, compared to 5.6 percent in 2011.
Civil war with thousands dead
Religion was a crucial factor in Northern Ireland's decades-long civil war that left thousands dead. It is primarily Protestants who support the union with Great Britain, while Catholics in particular are in favor of reunification with the EU member Republic Ireland pronounce. Experts had repeatedly pointed out that the number of Catholics was increasing significantly.
At the regional elections in May Sinn Fein was the first Catholic Unionist party to receive the most votes. However, as the referendum also revealed, slightly more people identify as British than as Irish (31.9 and 29.1 percent respectively).
Since Brexit, Northern Ireland has come into focus. the EU and Great Britain had then agreed special rules to prevent a hard border between the province and Ireland. The result was trade difficulties between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. London therefore wants to terminate the agreement. As the newspaper "Guardian" reported, the British government wants to have the conflict resolved by April. Then US President Joe Biden, who has Irish roots and sharply criticizes the British approach, could travel to the United Kingdom for a state visit on the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, it said.