Historic shift in Northern Ireland

One hundred years ago, Northern Ireland was established to maintain a pro-British, Protestant majority as a counterbalance to the independent, mainly Catholic Republic of Ireland. Now many are asking themselves whether the result of the census will contribute to an increase in support for independence tendencies. Protestantization of the island dates back to the 17th century, when settlers from Scotland and England were placed in the north-eastern part to strengthen the authority of English sovereignty. By the conclusion of peace in 1998, more than three thousand people had lost their lives in 30 years of fighting between Catholic supporters of the island’s independence and Protestants, supported by the Crown army.

The results of the Irish census cannot be separated from the negotiations regarding the future of this region. Demographers predict that Catholics, who tend to be younger and have a higher birth rate, could become a majority voter within a generation. In this group, support for the reunification of Ireland is growing, and thus the tendency to vote for independence parties continues.

The census also identified a strong increase in the number of religiously indifferent people in traditionally Protestant parts of Northern Ireland. The desire for a stronger identification is dominant, but not necessarily with any religion. There has been a large drop in people who identify themselves solely as British (32%, compared with 40% in 2011), and a few% increase in the group of people who declare themselves to be Irish.

Dr. Hugh Turpin of the Oxford School of Anthropology points out that in Northern Ireland “Catholicism was an oppressed tradition.” Therefore, as the scientist explained in an interview with “The Irish Catholic”, “liberalized youth” are more prone to “oppose the Protestant tradition than the Catholic tradition.”