Commenting on the publication of the latest round of 2021 census data today, SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MP said that the North has been totally transformed 100 years on from partition.
Mr Eastwood said that figures demonstrating a greater proportion of Catholics living in Northern Ireland for the first time amounted to a seminal moment in the island’s recent history that should not be downplayed or diminished out of fear or insincere politicking.
The SDLP Leader urged people to undertake a serious and sincere reflection on the scale of change we have experienced and to take part in a conversation about the powerful potential for a social democratic new Ireland.
Colum Eastwood MP said:
“This is a seminal moment in the history of modern Ireland. The census figures published today reveal that, by any measure, the constitution of the North has been transformed utterly 100 years on from partition. That is a moment of true change because it reflects a sustained period of lasting change.
“As we have built a more inclusive and diverse society, we have together shattered the bonds of an oppressive state which engrained discrimination against a Catholic minority in its every outworking for far too long. We are never going back to state sponsored discrimination against any religious minority. I hope that all those who lived through decades of discrimination and who experienced the sharp end of that oppressive state are able to breathe a sigh of relief today.
“The significance of this transformation should not be downplayed or diminished out of fear or insincere politicking. I acknowledge that today’s figures may generate feelings of insecurity for some. But it is my honest hope that we can all now take a moment of serious and sincere reflection about the scale of change we have experienced and commit to a conversation about the powerful potential for change in the future.
“My view is that we have an opportunity to build a social democratic new Ireland. A new society where we can create opportunity for everyone and share prosperity with every community. We no longer have to be one of the poorest regions in one of the most unequal societies in Europe, we can set a different course, a return to the European Union, a return to ambition and aspiration for all of our people. But that new path won’t be achieved by counting Catholics and Protestants or setting one community against another. We can only get there by replacing old battles of identity with a new contest for ideas.
“It is the challenge of this generation to forge a new future. Today’s results show the scale of change that is possible. We have to grasp the opportunity together.”