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Census 2021: analysis

Irish in Britain has attached great importance to data deriving from the Census, which is why (as the Federation of Irish Societies) we campaigned hard and successfully to have an Irish category included the Ethnic Group Question in the 2001 Census. We remain part of the ONS's Diversity Advisory Group working on the census.

Irish in Britain and our affiliates use data from the census (which is held every ten years) widely in our representation and advocacy work. You can view our Analysis Reports from the 2011 census to see just how much data is produced on a wide range of areas, including education, health, homes, jobs and more. 

Irish in Britain has commissioned a team of academics to conduct the analysis of data from the 2021 census as it is released. Find out more HERE.

Census 2021

The most recent census for England and Wales was on Sunday 21 March 2021, organised by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). The ONS is planning on publishing the initial findings in June 2022 and the full findings throughout the following year. Scotland and Northern Ireland publish their census data independently.

This census was ‘digital first’, meaning that a significant majority of households completed the census online. The census has long been an important for the Irish community in Britain in terms of representation and visibility.

Irish in Britain (and as the Federation of Irish Societies before 2013) has worked with the ONS to ensure Irish representation on several previous censuses. We remain part of the ONS’s Diversity Advisory Group. We are proud to have helped spearhead the successful campaign to include Irish as a category in the ethnicity section of the form. We have led large visible campaigns in the previous two censuses to highlight this option and get as many Irish people and their families to ‘Tick the Irish Box’ as possible. This kind of campaign is not possible this year with the lockdown restrictions preventing gatherings. 

In February we organised a webinar for our members, which is available to all here

Recording Irishness

There were four ways to record Irishness in the 2021 census:

  • Country of birth – if born in Ireland or Northern Ireland, you could record this.

  • Passport – there were three options: UK passport, Irish passport, or other(s). You could record more than one passport.

  • National identity – there was a write in option where you could put Irish or Northern Irish. 

  • Ethnic group – you could only tick one box here, but you could tick ‘Irish’, or ‘Gypsy or Irish Traveller’, in the ‘White’ section. There was also a write in option.

Successful lobbying of the ONS to provide Irish health data

In May 2013, Irish in Britain had cause to complain to ONS about a Census 2011 table containing important data on health. Because of issues around disclosure the data was presented using five ethnic categories rather than the whole 18. One of these five was the White category, and, since this was not broken down into its constituent parts – one of which was White Irish category – data on many Irish people remained invisible.

Following this complaint there were exchanges between Irish in Britain and ONS where the organisation explained its concerns to ONS. As a result, ONS statisticians decided that in any situation where a five category analysis was used, the White category would be broken down into its constituent parts: ‘White English/Welsh/Scottish/Northern Irish/British’, ‘White Irish’, ‘Gypsy or Irish Traveller’, ‘Any Other White background’ - thus making the ‘White Irish’ data visible.