Disappointing census still seeks to pigeonhole people’s backgrounds, says Armstrong

It is disappointing the Northern Ireland census still seeks to pigeonhole people’s backgrounds due to the religion they were brought up in, Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has said.

With this year’s census going live, Strangford MLA Ms Armstrong said while it was a valuable source of data, it was frustrating for those who did not identify with “binary community backgrounds”.

“A census is a vital tool to record accurate information but it is disappointing the 2021 census has retained the question about the religion you were brought up in if you answer ‘none’ to the main religion question,” she said.

“As a society, we have moved on considerably since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. Increasingly, there is a growing number of people who do not identify with binary community backgrounds such as protestant or catholic, or unionist or nationalist. However, the census will still pigeonhole them and therefore not give an accurate representation of the societal change we have seen in recent elections and polls among other places.

“If we keep considering Northern Ireland only in terms of protestants and catholics or putting people in specific religious or cultural designations without consideration to how things have changed, we will constantly be looking backwards instead of forward to help our region develop.”