Last Thursday, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency published the latest census figures on the religious demographics of the country.
45.7% percent of the population was Catholic or raised Catholic, and 43.5% of the population was protestant or raised protestant.
The previous 2011 census found that 45.1% percent of the population was Catholic or raised Catholic, while 48.4% of the population was protestant or raised protestant.
Nearly 100 years ago in 1926, Catholics made up 33.5% of the population and protestants made up 66.3% of the population. Only .2% of the population were neither.
Today, nearly 20% of the population says they have no religion. The majority of those saying they have no religion come were formerly protestant.
Deirdre Heenan, professor at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, called first-ever Catholic majority “monumental.”
“We have to look back at the history of the state, how it was created, the decades of discrimination against Catholics and, really, what we then need to do is have a look at where we are at the moment and what we want for our future.”
The once-minority of Catholics there have historically complained about discrimination and inequality.
The country’s borders were drawn in hopes of guaranteeing a permanent protestant majority. The first prime minister of Northern Ireland Sir James Craig once famously called their legislature a “protestant parliament for a protestant people.”
Traditionally, Catholics have wanted to join Ireland, while protestants have wanted to remain with Britain.
Northern Ireland’s constitutional status could change with a referendum if a majority of population wants to join Ireland.