Northern society slowly diversifying, census shows

Proportion of older people, migrants and Catholics growing

Comparison of 2001 and 2011 census, religion or religion brought up on in Northern Ireland. Image: Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency

Comparison of 2001 and 2011 census, religion or religion brought up on in Northern Ireland. Image: Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency

Thu, May 16, 2013, 16:09

Northern Ireland society is becoming more diverse but many of the long established stereotypes especially regarding religion and national identity are proving resistant.

Census details just released show Catholics still remain more likely to be without work, live in larger family units and regard themselves as having poor health than their Protestant equivalents.

The age profile of Catholics remains younger than that of Protestants while society as a whole is ageing noticeably. There is a growing reliance on the provision of unpaid care mostly by younger people for their more elderly relations and friends.

The population is also becoming more “Catholic” in the broadest sense. Around 52 per cent of those normally resident in Northern Ireland and who are or were raised as Catholics were under the age of 35. The equivalent figure for the Protestant community was 40 per cent.

A large majority, 75 per cent, of new arrivals in Northern Ireland from the 12 countries which joined the EU since the previous census in 2001 is also Catholic. Some 11 per cent or 202,000 people were born outside Northern Ireland. Of them, nearly half were or are Catholics while 34 per cent were/are Protestants.

Only one in 10 Catholics regarded themselves as British only whereas just 5 per cent of Protestant respondents saw themselves as exclusively Irish.

Headline figures from the 2011 census showed that some 20 per cent of the population regarded themselves as “Northern Irish”. But the latest analysis reveals that this figure is roughly equal across all age groups and is prevalent equally among Protestants and Catholics.

Knowledge of the Irish language and Ulster Scots varies widely across the age groups. Some 20 per cent of young people aged 12-15 say they have some knowledge of Irish and this figure declines to just over 6 per cent with the over 75s.

In contrast only 12-13 per cent of the over 55s had an ability in Ulster Scots. Religion was a major factor in language ability. Around 90 per cent of those with a knowledge of Irish are Catholics while 79 of those with proficiency in Ulster Scots are Protestants.