Northern Ireland’s Protestants fall below 50 percent of population for first time

December 11, 2012

(A section of the peace wall that divides Catholic and Protestant communities in Belfast wraps around houses in Cluan Place, east Belfast October 27, 2012. The first barriers were built in 1969, following the outbreak of the Northern Ireland riots known as “The Troubles.” They were built as temporary structures meant to last only six months, but they have multiplied over the years, from 18 in the early 1990s to 40 today; in total they stretch over 13 miles (21 km), with most located in Belfast. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton )

The proportion of Protestants in Northern Ireland has fallen below 50 percent for the first time, census figures showed on Tuesday, raising the prospect that the growing numbers of Catholics could upset a fragile political balance.

A wave of street violence in Belfast over the past days has been fuelled by the sense that nationalists, who are mainly Catholic and want Northern Ireland to be part of Ireland, are in the ascendance.

Nationalists share power with predominantly Protestant Unionists in the British-controlled province under a 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of sectarian violence that killed 3,600, with Unionists controlling the post of first minister thanks to their majority.

However, the proportion of Protestants fell to 48 percent from 53 percent 10 years ago, the results of the 2010 census showed, while the proportion of Catholics increased to 45 percent from 44.

Demographers have also predicted that Catholics, who are younger and have higher birth rates, could become a majority of voters within a generation.

A majority by nationalist parties would represent a setback to Unionists and could undermine the peace. Catholics already have a significant majority in the capital city Belfast, with 136,497 Catholics to 118,856 Protestant.

The loss of control of Belfast City Council by Unionist parties last year allowed nationalist parties this month to secure passage of a motion to remove the British flag from the city hall for the first time in a century.

The vote has triggered the most widespread pro-British street violence for years, with at least 28 police officers injured.

by Ian Graham in Belfast

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I wonder what percentage of Northern Ireland citizens actually attend church services on a regular basis. I would bet that these people are the ones who are most likely to be advocates of peace.

Posted by cbalducc | Report as abusive

The numbers show that the end game is in progress in 1921 over 25% of the Whole island was unionist A culture and a people will have been made to disappear by 2122

Posted by westbrit | Report as abusive