The Rainbow Project welcomes the release of 2021 Northern Ireland census data for sexual orientation

The Rainbow Project has welcomed the release of NI census results around sexual orientation but has expressed its disappointment that the Northern Irish census did not include questions on gender identity.

Historically, there has been limited official data or research about the number of people who identify as LGBTQIA+ in the UK, so the inclusion of census questions around sexual orientation for all residents aged 16+ is very significant.  The Rainbow Project’s research identified two overarching common themes of isolation and invisibility as causes of inequality within the LGBTQIA+ community. The inclusion of questions about sexual orientation and gender identity allows for greater visibility and understanding of the diverse experiences of LGBTQIA+ people within Northern Ireland.

John O’Doherty, Director of the Rainbow Project said: 

“The LGBTQIA+ Community have always existed in Northern Ireland, but we have been a hidden population. This is partly due to repeated failures by government and public bodies to carry out their statutory duty to collect and record data on sexual orientation and gender identity. Today’s release is a meaningful first step towards ensuring all LGBTQIA+ people are counted and visible within our society, but there remains much to be done.

“While this is an important first step towards ensuring all LGBTQIA+ people are counted, today’s release should be viewed as a baseline – and not a full reflection of LGBTQIA+ populations in Northern Ireland. The 2021 census provided an opportunity to record and report on the numbers of LGBTQIA+ people across the UK. We are disappointed that changes were not made to allow for gender identity data to be gathered in the Northern Ireland census leaving a further gap in the inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people.”

Aisling Playford, Policy and Advocacy Manager at The Rainbow Project said:

“The census data on sexual orientation will help us to ensure that policymakers, service providers and community & voluntary sector organisations understand the needs of LGBTQIA+ people and can help us to develop tailored services to address inequalities experienced by this community and to help LGBTQIA+ people achieve their full potential. The Rainbow Project will continue to focus on greater inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in the development and implementation of policies, services and strategies and ensure that these are working to improve the lives of all people. We will continue to work to ensure that LGBTQIA+ people can access dedicated specialist services when they need them, regardless of their location in Northern Ireland.


Notes to editor:


  E&W E&W % NI NI% Diff
Straight or Heterosexual       43,403,110           89.4 1363859 90.0 0.7
Gay or Lesbian             747,805             1.5 17713 1.2 -0.3
Bisexual             623,504             1.3 11306 0.7 -0.5
Other             165,305             0.3 2,597 0.2 -0.1
Didn’t answer          3,626,649             7.5 119268 7.9 0.4
Total       48,566,373       100.00 1514743 100  



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