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.
Saturday’s results showed that 45.7% recorded themselves as Catholic, while 43.5% recorded themselves as Protestant.
Mr Eastwood said the figures, which for the first time showed a higher proportion of Catholics living in Northern Ireland, were 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.
“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”.
“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.”
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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