According to a 2021 census, 45.7 % of North Irish declared themselves in Catholic faith and 43.5 % say they are Protestants. A historic turning point in this country conceived as a sanctuary for reformed cults.
carried out in 2021 and published Thursday, September 22, by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (La Nisra), the ten -year census of the Northern Census Act a historic turning point. For the first time in the history of this United Kingdom nation still traumatized by an interreligious conflict (“disorders”) having opposed until the late 1990s a Catholic minority with a Protestant majority, Catholics exceed in number Protestants.
In 2021, out of a total population of 1.9 million inhabitants, 45.7 % of North Irish, declared themselves in Catholic faith while 43.5 % said they were Protestants and 9.3 % without religion. In 2011, during the previous census, 45.1 % of the population said they were Catholic but also 48.4 % declared themselves Protestant. When the State of Northern Ireland was created, in 1921, leading to the partition of the island of Ireland, about two-thirds of the North Irish were of Protestant faith (Anglicans, Presbyterians, etc.).
“These data are extremely significant. In the partition, Northern Ireland was formed from six Protestant majority Irish counties. It was conceived as a Protestant State for a Protestant people,” recalls Clare Rice, Specialist in North Irish questions at the University of Liverpool. At the time, Protestants on the island were worried about the mainly Catholic republican movements, refusing British colonization of Ireland. By helping to create a North Irish state, they wanted to preserve themselves from what they deceased pejoratively “the law of Rome” (the grip of the Catholic religion).
“No one imagined at the time that the majority could switch to Catholics. The latter have long been a discriminated minority [for access to housing or public jobs]”, adds Clare Rice. In the 1960s and 1970s, Catholics supported discrimination less and less and, in a context of the rise in movements for civil rights and self -determination, “disorders” began. They will last thirty years. The Good Friday agreement, in 1998, ended it but peace remains fragile, Brexit having rekindled identity tensions between Catholics – rather in favor of a reunification of the island – and Protestants, generally “unionist”, supporters of maintenance in the United Kingdom.
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