Catholics make up largest religious group in the north for first time

Catholics now make up the largest religious group in the north for the first time, according to the results of the 2021 Census.

The results of Census 2021 were published this morning.
The results of Census 2021 were published this morning.

When current religion and religion of upbringing it taken into account 45.7 per cent of the population was ‘Catholic’, 43.5 per cent were ‘Protestant, Other Christian or Christian related’ and 1.5 per cent were from other non-Christian religions.

The Catholic plurality was revealed by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) which today released further results from the census held on March 21, 2021, which includes details on nationality, language, ethnicity and religion.

In Census 2021 the largest person-specific national identities were - ‘British only’ - 606,300 people or 31.9 per cent of our population; - ‘Irish only’ - 554,400 people or 29.1 per cent of our population; - ‘Northern Irish only’ - 376,400 people or 19.8 per cent of our population; and - ‘British & Northern Irish’ – 151,300 people or 8.0 per cent of our population

The result show 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.

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The number of people who are ‘British only’ is down from 722,400 in 2011 to 606,300 in 2021. That's a 16 per cent decrease. This fall is counterbalanced, but only partially, by increases in the number of people who identify as ‘British and Northern Irish’, up from 111,700 in 2011 to 151,300 in 2021, and by those who identify as ‘British, Irish and Northern Irish’, up from 18,400 in 2011 to 28,100 in 2021.

In contrast, the number of people who are ‘Irish only’ is up from 457,500 in 2011 to 554,400 in 2021. That's a 21.1 per cent. There has also been an increase in the number of people who identify as ‘Irish and Northern Irish’, up from 19,100 in 2011 to 33,600 in 2021, and in those who identify as ‘British, Irish and Northern Irish’ up from 18,400 in 2011 to 28,100 in 2021.

The number of people who were recorded as ‘Northern Irish only’ is broadly stable - standing at 379,300 people in 2011 and 376,400 people in 2021. That's a 0.76 per cent decrease. However the total number of people identifying as either ‘British and Northern Irish’ or ‘Irish and Northern Irish’ or ‘British, Irish and Northern Irish’ 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).

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The new results also contains figures show a large increase in the number of people holding Irish Passports and a decrease in the number of people holding British Passports.

In Census 2021, 1,484,700 people (78.0 per cent) held a single passport and 116,300 people (6.1 per cent) held more than one passport. In contrast, one person in six (15.9 per cent) or 302,200 people did not hold a passport.

The number of people holding a United Kingdom passport solely or jointly was 1.00m people in 2021. This is a decrease from the 1.07m people recorded as holding a United Kingdom passport solely or jointly in 2011.

The number of people holding an Ireland passport solely or jointly increased from 375,800 people in 2011 to 614,300 people in 2021, an increase of 63.5 per cent. This is consistent with the increasing demand for Ireland passports since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in 2016.

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In 2021 there were 92,500 people resident in Northern Ireland (or 4.9 per cent of our population) who held a non-UK/Ireland passport only. This is an increase from 2011, when 54,200 people resident in Northern Ireland (or 3.0 per cent of our population) held a non-UK/Ireland passport only.

The Census results further shows 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 our 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 per cent (190,600 people) of our population aged 3 and over had some ability in the Ulster-Scots language. This is up from 8.1 per cent in 2011.

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

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).