‘Old assumptions should now be laid to rest’

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NORTH Belfast MP Nigel Dodds has responded to the findings of the 2011 Census, which reveal that citizens from a Catholic background in Northern Ireland now outnumber those who consider themselves Protestants.

The statistics reveal that the population of Newtownabbey has grown by more than six per cent since 2001, to 85,139, and that the number of residents aged between 65 and 84 years has increased significantly over the past decade.

A breakdown of the figures on religious grounds shows that Protestants (67.76 per cent) outnumber Catholics (22.5 per cent) in the borough, and that more than 66 per cent of local residents selected British as their nationality, with 31 per cent ticking Northern Irish and just over 13 per cent choosing Irish. Respondents were allowed to make more than one selection.

Reflecting on the overall figures, Mr Dodds commented: “Whenever Census data is published in Northern Ireland, there is an inevitable focus on the religious breakdown of our society.

“The figures for religious background indicate only religious views and it is deeply unfortunate that even in recent weeks, some politicians have been inferring an automatic political indication from someone’s community background. Those are purely sectarian assumptions which do nothing to move Northern Ireland forward.

“The largest group in terms of identity are those in our community who regard themselves as British, whilst an Irish only identity is only favoured by around 25 per cent of people. However, there is a sizeable and growing number of people who are proud of their Northern Ireland identity and these people will come from all religious backgrounds and none. The lazy assumption that demographics equates to either national identity or political choice should now be laid to rest forever,” Mr Dodds concluded.