The figures are expected to show that Catholics make up from 43-47 percent of the population north of the border, with Protestants possibly dipping under the 50 percent mark for the first time. The “Don’t Know” category makes up the final few percentage points.
Despite the figures, if current trends continue, the size of the Protestant and Catholic communities are likely to draw even within 20 years.
Responding to reports that the figures will show a significant increase in the Catholic population, the anti-Agreement Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson said a majority of unionists would have to consent to a united Ireland. He said that otherwise there would be political instability. In any case, he said, the Good Friday agreement set up a system of consensual government in Northern Ireland, so any change would require unionist consent.