Those of us who were around and alert last time out will remember the excited anticipation of the figures. Brian Feeney, former fellow-slave at the VO, is alleged to have bet someone a big bottle of bubbly on the outcome. There was talk of other bets and of the outcome changing the entire political scene here.
Not so this time. The Irish Times this morning has an editorial looking at how the northern population over the decades hasn't had the ups and downs of the south. In 1841, pre-Famine, the north's population was 1.6 million; after the Great Hunger it went down to 1.2 million - less than the rest of the country - and has risen since to a record high in 2011 of 1.8 million. That's a growth of 7% in the last decade, 30% reckoned to be a net inward flow of migrants, most from Central Europe.
Yes, but but, you're saying. Cut to the chase. Alas, as the Irish Times phrases it, "The figures do not include the much-awaited and politically sensitive tally of religious affiliation". Whether that means they skipped that question this time round (I don't think so) or that they haven't quite finished counting the prods and taigs, or maybe have counted the prods and taigs and are waiting for a very good day to release bad news or a very bad day to release good news, there's no indication.In 1991 Catholics constituted 38% of the population; in 2001 40% (although that was considered surprisingly low - and cost Feeney his bubbly). The Protestant population of the north in 2001 was put at 46%.
There's no indication in the IT editorial as to whether we're going to get the religous break-down of figures at a later point. But while it acknowledges that under-15s in the north are down by 9%, resulting in closed or half-empty schools, another bulge is coming: the number of pre-school children under three years only is up 10%.
Talk about a tease. But don't, please don't talk about a 'sectarian head-count'. This is a political head-count: theological commitment has nothing to do with it.