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Religion, ethnicity, and nation in the census: some thoughts on the inclusion of Irish ethnicity and Catholic religion

By P. Walls


In Great Britain, a new ethnicity question appeared in the Censuses of 2001 in Scotland and England/Wales and religion questions were introduced for the first time in a century and a half. This paper seeks to address the rationale behind changes to the ethnicity question and the introduction of religion questions. Attention is given to the inclusion of a Catholic religious category in Scotland (not included in England and Wales) and the related implications of an inclusion of a new 'Irish' ethnic category in both parts of Great Britain. It discusses the context in which issues of anti-Catholic discrimination and Catholic disadvantage in Scotland and Irish experience in Britain were integral to debates around the inclusion of these ethnic and religious categories, including the role of research evidence in shaping new official categories. How and why these new data may be used, misused or ignored is considered. An examination of how these groups became included in the Scottish Census raises issues of the political context of boundary making. How data gathered on now accepted categories will be analysed, and what impact these may have on the communities concerned with regard to policy is discussed, taking the example of current health data on the Irish in Britain. More broadly, it is argued that data on Catholics in Scotland and the Irish ethnic group in Britain present a new challenge to those interested in ethnic/religious inequalities. This is because the data not only helps refocus debates onto excluded groups, but queries the parameters within which current debates on ethnicity have traditionally been constrained

Topics: HT
Year: 2001
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Provided by: Enlighten
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