Immigrant communities in Northern Ireland

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During the Troubles levels of immigration to Northern Ireland were low. However, there has been an increase since the Belfast Agreement brought an end to most of the violence.

Most ethnic minorities live in the Greater Belfast area, although certain groups are concentrated in other parts of the province.

Black African and Afro-Caribbean[edit]

George Henry Thompson was 'a negro that lived among the Protestants of Shankill Road' in the 1860s, and led a mob evicting Catholics. He was arrested in the county Antrim Assizes of 1873, and sentenced to two years.[1]

Louis Scott is mentioned as 'one of a few black members of the Ulster Defence Association' in Henry McDonald and Jim Cusack's UDA: inside the heart of loyalist terror.[2]


The first ethnic minority to arrive in significant numbers was the people of Chinese origin. There are 4,200 speakers of the language (as of 2004)[3] and although this is dwarfed by the numbers able to speak Irish and Ulster Scots, it was said for many years that the Cantonese language is the second most widely spoken "first language" in Northern Ireland after English.

People of Chinese origin first arrived in Northern Ireland in the 1960s. Chinese is the largest non-native restaurant genre in Northern Ireland, as many of the initial immigrants set up food outlets in order to make a living.

According to the Chinese embassy there are nearly 10,000 overseas Chinese resident in Northern Ireland, as of 2007.[4] This figure may or may not include people of Chinese origin from elsewhere than China.

South Asian[edit]

Apart from the minority groups from Asia, most came from Commonwealth countries such as India and Pakistan. This immigration has led to the building of Belfast Islamic Centre and also a Hindu Temple to cater for spiritual needs of Hindu people. There is also an Asian supermarket on the Ormeau Road in Belfast. Most South Asians live in Central and Southern Belfast, in areas such as Ballynafeigh and Shaftesbury.


There are over 1,000 speakers of Portuguese in Northern Ireland. This wave has been more recent, having started in the 1990s. Northern Ireland's Portuguese population is located primarily in Dungannon, County Tyrone (where many work in the Moy Park factory) and Portadown, County Armagh.


There are now believed to be 30,000 Polish people living in Northern Ireland. This influx has been relatively recent, and has increased since Poland joined the European Union, with many coming on a short term basis for work. A recent report showed that in the Police Service of Northern Ireland's most recent recruitment drive, nearly 1,000 Polish people applied to become officers.[5]

Famous people[edit]

There are a number of famous people from Northern Ireland who are from an ethnic minority background. Chaim Herzog, President of Israel from 1983 to 1993, was born in Belfast. Others include broadcaster Lata Sharma (who is Asian), Andre Shoukri, a convicted UDA terrorist whose father is from Egypt, the Liberal Democrat politician Lembit Opik, who is of Estonian parentage, and the Alliance Party assembly member for South Belfast, Anna Lo MLA, who is from Hong Kong. Two IRA members of Italian ancestry were Freddie Scappaticci and Angelo Fusco.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Holy War in Belfast, Andrew Boyd. A Ulidia book 1969
  2. ^ UDA: inside the heart of loyalist terror. Henry McDonald and Jim Cusack
  3. ^ House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 20 Jan 2004 (pt 13)
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | Almost 1,000 Poles apply to PSNI.