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Decline of Protestants in Northern Ireland Could Upset Peace with Catholics

Census shows Protestants have fallen below 50 percent of population for the first time.

The United Kingdom's once-a-decade census indicates that the proportion of Protestants in Northern Ireland is declining, dropping below majority status for the first time.

The BBC reports that the percentage of Protestants dropped 5 percent over the past decade, dipping down to just 48 percent of Northern Ireland's 1.8 million people. Meanwhile, the percentage of Catholics, who already outnumber Protestants in Belfast, rose to 45 percent.

And that 3 percent separation–a gap of just 54,000 people–has some speculating that Northern Ireland's delicate political balance could be at risk.

A wave of street violence in Belfast speaks to this possibility, the Washington Post reports.

A Reuters report also indicates that the Belfast riots are "fueled by the sense that nationalists, who are mainly Catholic and want Northern Ireland to be part of Ireland, are in the ascendance."

Only 7 percent of Northern Ireland's residents indicated that they belong to another religion or profess no religion.

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