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The Administrative Data Research Network is an ESRC-funded project that ran from October 2013 - July 2018. It is currently at the end of its funding cycle and is no longer taking applications. Administrative data research will be taken forward in a new project, to be launched later in 2018.

Past and current same sex couples in Northern Ireland: an exploratory analysis

Research overview

The research team aims to establish a sample and profile of this section of the population and understand changes they’ve experienced since 2001.


Public benefit

This project may help to reduce biases, prejudices and harassment, and aims to provide the public and voluntary sectors with the information they need to address these issues.


More about the project

Currently in Northern Ireland same sex couples who live together in a committed relationship have no recognised legal status. In the instance that they have registered their civil partnership in another part of the UK, many rights and responsibilities may then be accessed in N.I. but areas falling under the category of ‘transferred’ such as social security and financial support remain inaccessible. This has resulted in substantial disparity in the rights of same sex couples in N.I. compared to both same sex couples in other parts of the UK, and also married couples. Unfortunately, this is not the only area where persons of a same sex orientation face inequality; LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) persons are likely to experience discrimination and social exclusion in all areas including education, occupation, and health.

Despite the dearth of research literature pertaining to this population in N.I. some concerning trends are evident. Same sex orientated young people tend to report higher incidence of school bullying, homophobic bullying, reduced academic achievement, and social isolation at school, which often resulted in early school leaving. Obviously, where there is reduced academic achievement and early school departures there will be negative consequences in relation to adult occupational choices, and thus income. Living with harassment, discrimination, and social stigma, plus threats of, and actual violence to, both the person and their home is likely to have negative implications for one’s health, with this pattern evidenced in the available N.I. literature. Mental health issues are an area of major concern for this sample, with substance abuse, eating disorders, and depression common. It has also been shown that same sex and transgendered people have higher than average rates of attempted and completed suicide and self-harm.

This project may help to reduce biases, prejudices and harassment in addition to informing interested parties in the voluntary and public sector with an overall aim of addressing these issues on behalf of this subsample of the population. This project will use data from the 2011 Census to establish the sample and their profile. Tracing the sample retrospectively will permit analyses of the 2001 Census data and allow for detailed examination of the transitions occurring over the intervening ten year period. The main aim of the study is to establish a comprehensive profile of those living or having lived in a same sex relationship in Northern Ireland. Outcomes of interest include socioeconomic and socio-demographic outcomes from census records, education, family structure, age structure, economic activity, employment and real level indicators of deprivation (NIMDM); health, self-reported health from the Census data and mortality rates and causes, all-cause mortality, external causes, suicides, avoidable causes (preventable, amenable) from GRO death statistics.


Government departments

Northern Ireland Government


Date approved

March 2016


Project team

Ulster University


Page last updated: 24/10/2017