In the 2001 decennial census, the Census Office for Northern Ireland (CONI) asked a new question to attempt to achieve a more accurate depiction of the balance of the mainly unionist Protestant and mainly nationalist Catholic communities across Northern Ireland.
As well as asking the traditional question of "Religion?" - to which over 13% of respondents gave no answer - it also asked "Religion brought up in?" to capture those who are no longer religiously active themselves. The combination of the two questions gives a community background by religion for over 97% of the population.
These figures are presented here as the best assessment available of the community balance, without implying any particular significance to the absolute figures. Not all Protestants are unionists, and not all Catholics are nationalist. For information on recent communal conflicts in Northern Ireland, see the Troubles.
These figures at district level mask wide variations on smaller scales. In the Belfast City Council area, the figures at ward level vary from 95% Protestant to 99% Catholic.
Local Council areas with Protestant majorities
Local Council areas with Catholic majorities
In 2005 a plan to reduce the number of councils in Northern Ireland began. The option to reduce to eleven authority areas was selected in 2008 out of three models of seven, eleven and fifteen councils, with three proposals in each model.
Belfast is close to 50-50 representation under the new proposal, and is shown as grey in the map.
|2||Castlereagh + Lisburn||178,500||121,347||68||49,714||27.9||40.1|
|3||North Down + Ards||154,900||126,219||81.5||19,517||12.6||68.9|
|4||Antrim + Newtownabbey||132,700||91,074||68.6||35,632||26.9||41.7|
|5||Down + Newry & Mourne||161,700||41,526||25.7||117,558||72.7||47|
|6||Craigavon + Armagh + Banbridge||189,100||104,347||55.2||80,795||42.7||12.5|
|7||Dungannon + Cookstown + Magherafelt||129,500||36,427||28.1||81,666||63.1||35|
|8||Fermanagh + Omagh||111,600||39,266||35.2||70,813||63.5||28.3|
|9||Strabane + Derry||147,000||38,053||25.9||107,241||73||47.1|
|10||Limavady + Coleraine + Ballymoney + Moyle||136,700||79,269||58||54,101||39.6||18.4|
|11||Ballymena + Larne + Carrickfergus||132,400||103,075||77.9||26,333||19.9||58|