The birth, marriage and death results for the first quarter of this year were released on 30 June 2008, and, as always, make for some interesting reading.
The by-now-familiar pattern of births continues, demonstrating that majority-Catholic areas are still having considerably more babies than majority-Protestant areas. As Catholics now are starting to make up a majority of the child-bearing cohort, their higher fertility will ensure that the population of the north continues its inexorable tilt towards a Catholic majority (and thus hopefully a nationalist majority, leading in turn to national re-unification).
Some examples from Table 3 of the report: with a Northern-Ireland-wide average birth-rate of 15.0 per thousand, most majority-Protestant areas come in under that figure – Ards at 12.6, Castlereagh at 12.3, North Down at 12.5, Ballymoney at 11.1, Carrickfergus at 11.5, Coleraine at 12.0, Larne at 10.5, and Newtownabbey at 14.4. Only dormitory towns for the young (of both communities) fleeing Belfast exceed the average: Banbridge, at 15.6, Lisburn at 15.2 and Antrim at 16.4.
Catholic areas, in contrast, often exceed the average birth-rate: Down at 15.1, Cookstown at 15.4, Magherafelt at 17.4, Dungannon at 16.4, Newry and Mourne at 19.1, Fermanagh at 16.2, Limavady at 16.0, and Derry at 15.5. Belfast, Armagh and Craigavon are too close to religious parity, at least amongst the young adults, to provide any interesting results. Of the Catholic areas, Moyle, at 13.3, continues to look like a retirement area, while in west Tyrone, both Omagh (13.6) and Strabane (14.6) fall below the average. For these latter two, the only explanation that makes sense is that their young people have moved away, showing that these areas are in decline.
Conversely, in the death-rate column of Table 3, it is the Protestant areas which exceed the average (9.5): Ards at 9.6, Castlereagh at 10.2, North Down at 11.6, Ballymena at 10.4, Carrickfergus at 10.7, and Larne at 11.6. Funny little Larne holds the distinction of being the only area whose death-rate exceeds its birth-rate. If there were no migration it would eventually die out (and that would be no loss to the world!)
Some Catholic areas also exceed the average death-rate: Cookstown, Fermanagh and Strabane, all at 10.2. But most have less-than-average death-rates, showing the relative youth of their populations.
This report, of course, covers only a short period, and may thus not be representative of the whole year. For a more complete picture of the evolution of the population, the Annual Reports are better, and can be found here: Registrar General Annual Reports