Sinn Fein wants referendum plan as Catholics outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland for first time

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Sinn Fein has called for preparations for a referendum on Irish reunification after a census, Catholics outnumbered Protestants in Northern Ireland for the first time in the country’s history.

During the partition in 1921, Northern Ireland’s borders were drawn to ensure a Protestant majority. Unionists are traditionally Protestant, while historically Nationalists are mostly Catholic.

But in the census taken last year, a total of 45.7 percent of the 1.9 million residents identified as Catholic, compared to 43.5 percent who were Protestant.

There was also a fall in the number of people in Northern Ireland who saw themselves as British and an increase in those who identified as Irish compared to the last census in 2011.

The 2011 census recorded 48 percent of the population as Protestant or raised Protestant and 45 percent as Catholic.

Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, Northern Ireland’s first minister, said the change was “historic”.

John Finucane, a Sinn Fein MP, said: “The Irish government should set up a citizens’ assembly to plan the possibility of a unity referendum”. He described the shift as “irreversible”.

Philp Brett, a DUP member of the legislature, told BBC Radio Ulster: “I don’t come from a traditional Protestant background, but my support for the Union is not in doubt.

“What worries me the most is the attempt by some to try to use a census […] as a sort of mini-referendum on Northern Ireland’s position in the UK.”

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