Tuesday, December 11, 2012
The proportion of Protestants in Northern Ireland has fallen below 50% for the first time, census figures have shown, raising the prospect that the growing numbers of Catholics could upset a fragile political balance
The proportion of Protestants fell to 48% from 53% 10 years ago, the results of the 2010 census showed, while the proportion of Catholics increased to 45% 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. There are just 54,000 more people from a Protestant background than from a Catholic one in Northern Ireland, latest figures from the 2011 census have shown. One of the reasons for the decline in the Protestant population is that it is an older community with higher mortality.