Political figures have reacted to Census 2021 figures which revealed that more people in Northern Ireland identify as Catholic than Protestant.

Saturday’s results showed that 45.7% recorded themselves as Catholic, while 43.5% recorded themselves as Protestant.

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Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin’s vice-president and first minister-designate, said the results were “another clear indication that historic change is taking place in the diversity of this island and society which enriches us all”.

SDLP leader Colm Eastwood said those facing discrimination in Northern Ireland could “breathe a sigh of relief” after the census results identified more Catholics than Protestants.

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He called the figures showing a higher proportion of Catholics living in Northern Ireland for the first time “a significant moment in the island’s recent history” and “a moment of real change”.

“This is an important moment in the history of modern Ireland,” he said. Census figures published today show that, by any measure, the constitution of the North has changed drastically 100 years after partition.

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“This is a moment of real change because it reflects a sustained period of lasting change.”

Mr Eastwood added that the findings showed that “together we have broken the bonds of an oppressive state that has discriminated against a Catholic minority in everything it has done for far too long”.

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“I hope that all those who have faced decades of discrimination and who have experienced the harsh end of this oppressive state will be able to breathe a sigh of relief today,” he continued.

“The importance of this change should not be belittled or belittled by fear or insincere politics,” he said. “I recognize that today’s figures may create feelings of insecurity for some.

“But it is my sincere hope that we can all now take a moment of serious and sincere reflection on the scale of change we have experienced and commit to a conversation about the powerful potential for change in the future. can.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said the findings “present a stark contrast to the near-extinction of the Protestant population in the Republic”.

“For those who read the Catholic population to support Irish unity it shows just how sectarian the plan is,” he said.

He added that the increase in the number of people identifying as Catholic “has been going on for decades” but remarked that “the nationalist vote in this year’s assembly elections is almost the same as the first assembly elections in 1998.” Is”.

In response to the results, Sinn Fein MP John Finucane called on the Irish government to prepare for the “possibility of a unity referendum” and said “the partition of Ireland has failed”.

He said today’s census results are another clear indication that a historic change is taking place in the diversity of this island and society that is enriching us all.

“There is no doubt that change is ongoing and irreversible. How this change is shaped requires the maturity to address the challenges our society faces moving forward.

“We can all be part of creating a better future. A new constitutional future and a new Ireland.

“But we must prepare for it. The Irish government must set up a citizens’ assembly to plan for the possibility of a unity referendum.

“A period of planning is critical. That planning, dialogue, and engagement needs to happen now and involve people of all backgrounds and communities.

“Together we can create a better future for everyone on this island.”

Naomi Long, the leader of the Coalition, tweeted: “Some people were offended when I said that Brexit was self-defeating by Unionists. It seems, however, that it will be created by them. [census] Results.”

SDLP Claire Hanna MP tweeted that “religion and politics are bluntly linked” in the wake of the results but said it was a “distortion” to discuss the census.

“Change is a reality and is happening here in a multitude of ways,” he said. “Demography is not destiny (though) and (percentage) numbers alone do not change anything for public services, opportunity, health or well-being,” he said.

Census data also shows that 31.9% of people in Northern Ireland identify as British only, while 29.1% of the population identify as Irish only. 19.8% identify as Northern Irish and 8% as British and Northern Irish.

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