As has been mentioned in the comments recently, the legendary Horseman’s predictions are gradually playing out in the real world and proving incredibly accurate. In that spirit what follows is Fahas analysis of the latest release of the schools census data.
If I may, I’d like to thank all those who take the time to comment here. That is the reason this blog keeps going. In addition we have many readers who don’t comment but the figures continue to amaze me. 1,600 a day on average is a very respectable readership.
Go raibh maith agat agus lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh
The data for the 2016 School Census was released recently. This data was obtained in October 2016 for all Primary, Secondary and Special Schools in Northern Ireland. These records are available as far back as 2000 so I have compiled and compared the data for that 17 year time period. Here is the yearly data for the question on religion for students in each year.
The obvious and main trend is the steady decline of the Protestants in the student age groups. The Catholic percentage has increased slightly over the 17 year time period. There has been a small increase in non-Christians and those with No Religion has doubled from 4.9% to 9.8% during that time period. There also has been a significant increase in the Other Christian group who now constitute 3.42% of all students.
Who are these Other Christians? In the looking at the detailed 2011 Census Religion information by denomination and accounting for the recent increase in Romanian and Bulgarian nationals it appears that approximately 0.5% are Eastern Orthodox (EU nationals). Of the remaining 2.9% it appears that 1.75% can be accounted for as non-denominational Protestants or other Christian related religions such as Mormons. That leaves 1.15% remaining. Of note is that while Other Christians are only 3.42% of the student population they make up 25% of students in integrated schools.
Many of these are probably children of mixed marriages and children of Protestant and Catholics who are not affiliated with a church or parish. I estimate that of the total 3.42% that 0.5% are Eastern Orthodox, 0.5% of Catholic background and 2.5% of Protestant background. In the school census there are also 9.83% with No Religion or Not Recorded. The 2011 census category for Religion Brought in did not have a Not Recorded category but comparing the two I estimate that most of the 9.83% (at least 9.0%) with No Religion Not Recorded are actually No Religion.
There are probably a small number of non-denominational Protestants. There are also a few Catholics who are Not Stated since they wish to not reveal their religion status in State schools in order to avoid potential harassment.
Taking all these factors into account I estimate the Catholic population at 52%, the Protestant population at 37.5%, Non-Christian or Eastern Orthodox at 1.25% and No Religion at 9.25%. The Protestant student population is declining at 0.4% per year and by 2021 will be only 35%.
That year will be the 100th anniversary of the founding of Northern Ireland. The irony in that 35% is that in 1921 that was the percentage of the Northern Ireland population that was Catholic.
All these students will eventually be voters and based on the recent Assembly election approximately 51% would vote for nationalist parties, 37% for unionist parties and 12% for non-sectarian parties. Every year from 2017 on will add a new voter cohort where there will be a 15% gap between nationalist and unionist parties.
The unionist parties do not appear to be aware of this large gap between nationalist and unionist votes that will occur into the future with no end in sight. The recent Assembly election may have alerted some unionists to this fact.