The People of Northern Ireland Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The People of Northern Ireland

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The population of Northern Ireland is approximately 1.5 million people, with approximately one third living in the capital, Belfast. The other cities are Londonderry, Armagh (the ecclesiastical capital of both the Anglican Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church), Newry and Lisburn. In fact, of 22 places with a population of over 20,000 in the whole of Ireland, 12 of these are found in Northern Ireland. Six of these are in the densely-populated area around Belfast Lough - Bangor, Belfast, Carrickfergus, Lisburn, Newtownabbey and Newtownards.

This population is largely white with a smaller ethnic mix than the rest of the United Kingdom. However, the following ethnic minorities do exist1:

  • Chinese, about 4000
  • Indian, about 1000
  • Pakistani, about 700
  • Travelling community, about 1500

However, the ethnicity is spilt along religious rather than racial lines. The two main communities are the Protestant, largely Unionist community, and the Roman Catholic, largely Nationalist community.

Many of the Protestants can trace their families to the Scots who immigrated as part of the plantation to the best farming land of Ireland which was located in Ulster. Most of the Roman Catholics were either original residents in Ireland or came as labourers with their Scottish landlords. The backgrounds to these two communities is probably the main cause of the divisions that sadly exist to this day, plus the persecution at various times by both sides, one against the other.

Principal Centres of Population

Town/CityCountyPopulation 19912
1Figures from 1991 census.2Taken from the 1991 census.

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