June 21, 2024

Northern Ireland has more Catholics than Protestants for the first time - abroad

Northern Ireland has more Catholics than Protestants for the first time – abroad

Originally, Catholics were not supposed to have any political or economic influence in Northern Ireland. Now the period of Protestant domination in the provinces is over. Change also has a symbolic meaning.

The era of Protestant domination in Northern Ireland is over. For the first time in the county’s 100-year history, Catholics outnumber Protestants in this part of the United Kingdom. According to last year’s census results, which have just been released, 45.7% of Northern Ireland residents said they were Roman Catholic or from Catholic families. In contrast, only 43.5 percent identify themselves as Protestant or people of Protestant ancestry.

At the previous census, in 2011, Protestants made up 48.4 percent of the population, while Catholics made up about 45 percent. The fact that for the first time there are fewer Protestants than Catholics is a blow to those who view the province as a Protestant stronghold. “It was the idea for Northern Ireland to have a Protestant majority,” explains Duncan Morrow, professor of politics at the University of Ulster. “Now, for the first time, we have confirmation that that has changed.” This is a “change of great symbolic significance” for the population.

For decades, Catholics did not even have basic civil rights

In fact, London separated Northern Ireland from the rest of the island of Ireland when it became apparent that it could no longer hold Ireland as a whole. The area demarcated in 1921 retained as much of the Emerald Isle as possible, as there was a strong, pro-British Protestant majority. Within the confines of this newly created entity in the North, the Protestants then obtained a two-thirds majority.

Catholics should not have any political or economic influence. For decades, they did not even have basic civil rights. The Parliament of Stormont served as a “Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people”. Only the 1998 Good Friday Agreement put an end to this idea – and after many years of bitter bloodshed, it ushered in a phase of equal rights and peaceful coexistence. Both sides had to work together. The Unionists had to reconcile with the Republicans. Catholics were assured that Northern Ireland could merge with the Republic of Ireland if the majority of Northern Irish people voted for it.

Since the Good Friday Treaty, the proportion of Protestants in the population has decreased rapidly – changing the political situation accordingly. In 2017, the (consistently Protestant) unionist parties lost their majority in Stormont for the first time. In May of this year, the Irish Republican Party Sinn Féin became the largest force in Parliament, giving Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, the right to take over the highest office in Northern Ireland’s home rule – a takeover of the unionists for the time being. still resist.

Experts doubt that the reunification of Ireland will happen

Irish historian Diarmide Ferriter says that “it was announced a long time ago” for Protestants. “They have already seen the loss of their political dominance. Now seeing the loss of their numerical superiority is another severe blow.”

However, most experts doubt that this shift in focus will lead directly to the reunification of Ireland, as hard-union unionists fear. Not all Catholics are pushing for reunification so long as, with Northern Ireland turning in their favour, they see social or financial benefits in remaining with the UK for the time being.

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In the previous year’s census, 32 percent of respondents classified themselves as “exclusively British” and 29 percent as “exclusively Irish”. Especially as religion plays a smaller role than ever for a growing number of Northern Irish people – most of them younger.