Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

A united (Northern) Ireland?

When I wrote recently about the rise in Catholics who felt themselves more Northern Irish than Irish, owing to the uniqueness of their experiences and the people they had shared them with, I was told by some readers that I was dreaming, the individuals I spoke of were as rare as unicorns.

This week's census results certainly offer some food for thought. While Catholics account for 45% of the population, only 25% of those questioned regarded themselves as 'Irish only', with 21% preferring 'Northern Irish only'.

Also interesting was that even if every 'British only' (40%) is Protestant, that still leaves a good proportion of Protestants who don't feel so. Identity is changing in NI, especially among younger people, and the impact over time will be uniting rather than divisive, looking to each other rather than outside. Maybe one day we'll even have a new consensus NI flag. I fancy a natty turquoise number, with George Best's face on it.

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