If history is truly an early warning system, as has been suggested, reactions should be measured to the news that, for the first time in a century, Catholics outnumber Protestants in the North.
Sinn Féin’s John Finucane sees the numbers as harbingers of historic and irreversible change. If transformation is to be truly positive, acceptance must be key.
A return to a might-is-right era, when the sheer weight of numbers gave moral force to what a privileged majority wanted and the devil took the last, cannot be an option.
The census figures in the north have shattered the old green-orange prism. But let’s also hope that they will not be used to retaliate against the ongoing wound of sectarianism or provoke a slide into polarizing triumphalism from either side.
For the record, 45.7 percent of people in the North are Catholic; 43.5 pc Protestant; 1.5 percent belong to other, non-Christian religions; and 9.3 percent belong to no religion and were not raised in any religion.
A more diverse population is evident with people sharing many identities and affiliations.
Therefore, the imperative to be more open and accommodating is stronger than ever.
Loyalties and interests have also changed. Brexit appears to have been a major reason for this.
For many it seems to have placed pragmatism above patriotism. This is shown by the number of people holding an Irish passport rising from 375,800 in 2011 to 614,300 in 2021 – a 63.5 per cent increase.
Restoring political institutions and returning democratic government is the only way to protect everyone.
The most important lesson from so many conflict situations is how little we allow ourselves to learn.
In light of this, it is worth turning back the clock to a bitter debate in the Northern Ireland Parliament in April 1934.
A dispute over the rights of the nationalist minority was in full swing. George Leeke of the Nationalist Party asked then-Prime Minister James Craig, “What about your Protestant Parliament?”
Craig’s response was as follows: “The Honorable Member must remember that in the South they boasted a Catholic state. They still boast that Southern Ireland is a Catholic state. I only boast that we are a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State.
“It would be quite interesting for future historians to compare a Catholic state founded in the South with a Protestant state founded in the North and see which performs better. I’m doing my best to stay ahead of the South.” Today should be less about “moving forward” and more about getting through it together.
The Good Friday Agreement is still the best way for everyone to navigate the future, regardless of religion. As its advocate John Hume said: “Differences are inherent in human nature. Differences are an accident of birth and should therefore never be the source of hate or conflict.”
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/editorial/no-room-for-triumphalism-over-seismic-shift-in-north-42010928.html No room for triumphalism over the seismic shift to the north