A century after its creation as “a protestant state for a protestant people”, Northern Ireland’s six counties now have a majority of what was always a small Catholic community.

Night Ireland until next Tuesday after tea anyone?

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Well, it’s not entirely easy. Let’s go a little further than the headline figures.

The long-awaited Census data published today tells us that NI society is progressing in many complex ways. The fact that a community with a unionist tradition is now outnumbered does not mean that the majority will suddenly look to Dublin rather than London in their daily lives.

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The choice of London or Dublin had been one of the fundamental presumptions of existence since the formal creation of Northern Ireland in 1921. When NI became a political reality it was overwhelmingly Protestant/Unionist with only a third of the population Catholic/Nationalist. Community.

Census figures now show that Catholics (about 46 per cent) outnumber Protestants (about 44 per cent) in Northern Ireland’s population for the first time since the division of the island of Ireland.

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It is a fundamental and fundamental change that has been fueled by decades of sporadic fighting and killings, and dominated by more than 30 years of outright warfare that has claimed more than 3,600 lives.

The “Bunny Theory” – which would see a minority nationalist/Catholic community essentially overtaking its Protestant/Unionist neighbors over decades – has long been described. It has now become a reality and poses real challenges to the already embattled political leaders of the unionist community.

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These census figures tell us that Northern Ireland now has essentially three identities: 32 per cent of people say they are British and 29 per cent say they are Irish. But 20 percent say they are Northern Irish.

These and other figures strongly suggest linking old and frightening beliefs, including the close fit between Unionists and Protestants and Nationalists and Catholics. This is a positive move in a place where change has always been too slow and news of progress has always been few and far between.

Central to Sinn Féin’s policy priorities is the creation of an all-island United Ireland. In May this year the party’s president, Mary Lou Macdonald, told Sky News that it would become a reality within a decade, by 2032. The party has a share of political power in Belfast and could be poised to lead the next government in Dublin.

This date line is wildly optimistic and based entirely on long-held nationalistic aspirations. From health to education to the cost of living, the number of issues is unaddressed and almost limitless.

The prospect of a swift United Ireland is fraught with far more questions than answers. But this census conducted in 2021 tells us that some kind of change is in the air.

The idea of ​​a Protestant six-county part of Ulster is certainly obsolete. But so does the idea of ​​an island in Ireland that emerges as a belated fulfillment of the aspirations of the emerging leaders of 1916.

Talk of a united Ireland must now focus on pragmatism. The question should be: What political structure will benefit all Irish people in their everyday lives?

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