Census sees more Derry citizens identify as Irish and Catholics largest group in the north

Catholics now make up the largest religious group in the north while the number of people identifying as ‘Irish-only’ in Derry and Strabane has risen substantially.

The results of Census 2021 show how the demographics of Derry and Strabane are changing.
The results of Census 2021 show how the demographics of Derry and Strabane are changing.

For the first time in the history of the north there are more Catholics than Protestants, it was revealed by the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency when it published the census results yesterday.

The data also show the percentage of the total population of Derry/Strabane identifying as ‘Irish-only’ rose by 6% to 81,122 over the past ten years. In total 53.81% of a population of 150,756 in Derry/Strabane ticked the Irish-only box. That was up from 47.8% of a population of 147,720 in 2011.

The number of people declaring themselves to be ‘NI-only’ and ‘British-only’ dropped: down from 22.13%of the population in 2011 to 17.46% (26,322 people in 2021) for ‘British-only’, and down from 21.59% to 18.35% (27,633 people) for ‘NI-only’.

Across the north as a whole one of the most significant results was that, when current religion and ‘religion of upbringing’ is taken into account, 45.7 per cent of the population was ‘Catholic’, 43.5 per cent was ‘Protestant, Other Christian or Christian related’ and 1.5 per cent was from other non-Christian religions.

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This is the first time Catholics have made up the largest religious grouping.

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood said: “This is a seminal moment in the history of modern Ireland. The census figures published today reveal that, by any measure, the constitution of the North has been transformed utterly 100 years on from partition. That is a moment of true change because it reflects a sustained period of lasting change.”

CENSUS BREAKDOWN FOR DERRY/STRABANE

The percentage of the total population of Derry/Strabane identifying as ‘Irish-only’ rose by 6% to 81,122 over the past ten years.

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In total 53.81% of a population of 150,756 in Derry/Strabane ticked the Irish-only box for Census 2021. That was up from 47.80% of a population of 147,720 in 2011.

The number of people locally who declared themselves to be ‘NI-only’ and ‘British-only’ dropped over the decade: down from 22.13%of the population in 2011 to 17.46% (26,322 people in 2021) for British-only and down from 21.59% to 18.35% (27,633 people) for NI-only.

Citizens were not restricted to one nationality so the number of people who identified as Irish was even higher at 57.54% (86,745 people in 2021) - up from 50.75% in 2011.

The number of people who put down British along with another nationality fell from 26.20% in 2011 to 22.46% (33,860 people) last year. There was a decrease from 26.20% in 2011 to 24.87% (37,493 people) in the number of people who identified as ‘Northern Irish’ alongside another nationality.

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The new census results - released yesterday by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) showed a slight rise in the number of Catholics in Derry/Strabane. In total 72.39% of people in Derry/Strabane (109,132 people) said they were currently Catholic or that this was the ‘religion they were brought up in’. That’s up from 72.16% in 2011.

By contrast the number of citizens who self-identified as Protestant and Other Christian fell over the ten years from 25.40% to 23.12% of the population (34,854 people); 3.51% of respondents put down no religion and another 0.98% selected ‘other religion’.

A breakdown of specific religious affiliation in Derry/Strabane gave the following percentages: Catholic (68.36%), Presbyterian (9.85%), Church of Ireland (8.275), No religion (8.23%), Other Christian (2.18%), Not stated (1.45%), Other religion (0.87%) and Methodist (0.79%).

In terms of passports, 48.05% of people in Derry/Strabane held Irish-only passports. This was followed by UK-only (29.11%); No passport (17.23%); UK and Ireland-only (3.47%); Other only, non-Irish or UK (1.7%); Ireland and other non-UK (0.21%); UK and other non-Irish (0.17%) and UK, Ireland and other (0.05%).

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In total 51.79% of usual residents in Derry and Strabane held Irish passports compared with 32.80% who held UK passports. Of all usual residents aged three or over (145,278) 15.95% had some ability in Irish and 6.22% had some ability in Ulster-Scots.

The main languages locally were: English (98.18%), Polish (0.45%), Irish (0.35%), Other Languages (0.70%), Arabic (0.10%), Lithuanian (0.07%), Chinese (0.06%), Romanian (0.04%), Portuguese (0.03%) and Bulgarian (0.01%).

The figures for ethnicity show the following percentages: White (97.74%), Mixed (0.62%), Indian (0.54%), Chinese (0.23%), Filipino (0.15%), Irish Traveller (0.14%), Black African (0.14%), Other ethnicities (0.13%), Other Asian (0.12%), Pakistani (0.07%), Arab (0.06%), Black Other (0.06%) and Roma (0.01%).

The demographic trend shows the total population of Derry/Strabane rose by a mere two per cent (3,036) to 150,756, the latest Census results show.

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In 2011, the population of the two legacy local authority areas was 147,720, so over ten years the population has increased by only 3,036.

Derry/Strabane is now the fifth most populous district in the north after Belfast (345,418), Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon (218,656), Newry Mourne and Down (182,074) and Ards and North Down (163,659).

Derry/Strabane now makes up 7.9 per cent of the north’s total population of 1,903,175. This is down slightly from 8.2 per cent of a total population of 1,810,863 ten years ago.

There are 3,438 more women (77,097) in Derry/Strabane than men (73,659) with a sex ratio of males per 100 females of 95.5.

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The median age in Derry/Strabane - the middle value when all ages are arranged from the youngest to the oldest - is 39 for both sexes, which is the same as the median for the north. For women it is 40 and men it is 38; both values are the same as the median ages for women and men for the north as a whole.

CENSUS 2021 ACROSS THE NORTH

Across the north the most eye-catching result was the finding that Catholics now make up the largest religious group in the north for the first time. When current religion and religion of upbringing it taken into account 45.7% of the population in the north was Catholic, 43.5% was ‘Protestant, Other Christian or Christian related’ and 1.5% was from other non-Christian religions.

The Catholic plurality was revealed as NISRA released the second tranche of results from Census 2021 yesterday.

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In Census 2021 the largest person-specific national identities were - ‘British-only’ - 606,300 people or 31.9% of the north’s population; - ‘Irish-only’ - 554,400 people or 29.1 per cent of the population; - ‘NI-only’ - 376,400 people or 19.8 per cent of our population; and - ‘British & NI’ – 151,300 people or 8% of the population

The result shows that in terms of national identity the number of people who are ‘Irish-only’ is up from 457,500 in 2011 to 554,400 in 2021 (+21.1%).

The number of people who are ‘British-only’ is down from 722,400 in 2011 to 606,300 in 2021 (-16%). This fall is counterbalanced, but only partially, by increases in the number of people who identify as ‘British and NI’, up from 111,700 in 2011 to 151,300 in 2021, and by those who identify as ‘British, Irish and NI’, up from 18,400 in 2011 to 28,100 in 2021.

Alongside the increase in the number of people who are ‘Irish-only’ - up from 457,500 in 2011 to 554,400 - there has also been an increase in the number of people who identify as ‘Irish and NI’, up from 19,100 in 2011 to 33,600 in 2021, and in those who identify as ‘British, Irish and NI’ up from 18,400 in 2011 to 28,100 in 2021.

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The number of people who were recorded as ‘NI-only’ is broadly stable - standing at 379,300 people in 2011 and 376,400 people in 2021 (-0.76%). However the total number of people identifying as either ‘British and NI’ or ‘Irish and NI’ or ‘British, Irish and NI’ is up from 149,300 people in 2011 to 213,000 people in 2021.

Proportionately the fastest growing group is people with ‘other national identities’ - typically identities from outside UK and Ireland.

This group is up from 61,900 people in 2011 (3.4 per cent of the population) to 113,400 people in 2021 (6.0 per cent of the population).

The new results for the north also contain figures which show a large increase in the number of people holding Irish passports and a decrease in the number of people holding UK passports.

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In Census 2021, 1,484,700 people (78%) held a single passport and 116,300 people (6.1%) held more than one passport. In contrast, one person in six (15.9%) or 302,200 people did not hold a passport.

The number of people holding a UK passport solely or jointly was 1m people in 2021. This is a decrease (-6.54%) from the 1.07m people recorded as holding a UK passport solely or jointly in 2011.

The number of people holding an Irish passport solely or jointly increased from 375,800 people in 2011 to 614,300 people in 2021, an increase of 63.5%.

This is consistent with the increasing demand for Ireland passports since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016.

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In 2021 there were 92,500 people resident in NI (or 4.9 % of the population) who held a non-UK/Ireland passport only. This is an increase from 2011, when 54,200 people resident in NI (or 3% of our population) held a non-UK/Ireland passport only.

The census results further show the number of people who said they had some ability in the Irish language has increased. Census 2021 shows that 12.4 per cent (228,600 people) of the population aged 3 and over had some ability in the Irish language. This is up from 10.7 per cent in 2011.

Census 2021 shows that 10.4% (190,600 people) of our population aged 3 and over had some ability in the Ulster-Scots language. This is up from 8.1% in 2011.

On census day 2021, 4.6 % (85,100 people) of the population aged 3 and over had a main language other than English. In 2011, English was not the main language of 3.1% (54,500 people).

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In 2021 the most prevalent main languages other than English were Polish (20,100 people), Lithuanian (9,000), Irish (6,000), Romanian (5,600) and Portuguese (5,000).

SEMINAL MOMENT

Colum Eastwood described the Census 2021 results as an important moment in Ireland’s history.

The SDLP Leader said: “This is a seminal moment in the history of modern Ireland. The census figures published today reveal that, by any measure, the constitution of the North has been transformed utterly 100 years on from partition. That is a moment of true change because it reflects a sustained period of lasting change.

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“As we have built a more inclusive and diverse society, we have together shattered the bonds of an oppressive state which engrained discrimination against a Catholic minority in its every outworking for far too long.

"We are never going back to state sponsored discrimination against any religious minority. I hope that all those who lived through decades of discrimination and who experienced the sharp end of that oppressive state are able to breathe a sigh of relief today.”