The upcoming release of yet more results of the 2011 Census will, no doubt, arouse huge interest and generate number crunching on an industrial scale in an effort to interpret trends and forecast future behaviours. Of  course it is the religious background questions that will prove most interesting for this blog. While awaiting the release of further data I thought it might be interesting to provide a little context.



So I would expect that the 2011 total of 1815000 (-ish) will include around 815000 Catholics (not including migrants), giving a percentage of about 45%. Protestants will still outnumber Catholics, but will only be a whisker over 50%.” Horseman April 2010



The population on Census Day was 1,810,900 – the highest ever recorded in

Northern Ireland.” Nisra Census Report 2012


In other words Horsemans prediction was accurate to within 0.2% . That is astounding.


Yet we now know that immigrants in 2009 accounted for at least 39,000 0r 2% of the total (see below).

It is arguable that this total may have increased, if anything, between 2009 and 2011.


NI Assembly Research and Information Service

Research Paper

  • “Since 2004, Northern Ireland has welcomed a disproportionate number of A8

citizens (particularly Polish people) compared with the rest of the UK.

  • The A8 stock population is estimated to have risen from 30,000 in 2007 to

39,000 in 2009.”


It may be assumed that a majority of  these immigrants are of a Catholic background, eg: Poles, Portugese, Phillipinos.

In addition we already know that Catholics are in a majority at every age below 37. This is the cohort that has the most babies of course.

We have already seen that people are living longer and a majority of those in the older age groups are Protestant/Unionist in outlook.

It will be interesting to see if Horsemans prediction of a 45%/51% split in the religious background demographic holds true or if immigration has, in fact, accelerated the process.

If, and it’s a big if, the Protestant population percentage actually falls below 50% the effects upon Unionism will be very interesting to observe.