Wednesday, June 15, 2005


'What If'? Wednesday - Different Approach

I spotted a post by Mick Fealty over on Slugger O'Toole today commenting on this survey by NI Life and Times. Admittedly it makes for bleak viewing from a nationalist perspective.

59 per cent of people surveyed claimed they wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom, with 22 per cent favouring Irish reunification. 11 per cent favour an independent NI, (which I feel is unworkable) with 2 per cent wanting something else and 7 per cent who say they do not know what they want.

Others have weighed in with their feelings on the issue. Everything Ulster and Andrew McCann over at A Tangled Web are, unsurprisingly, delighted with the findings. However, I don't think nationalists should throw in the towel just yet.

I don't like to place too much emphasis on polls and I don't think it is that easy to make assertions from them. As Richard Delevan pointed out recently, "reading a poll is as much art as science". I confess that I am no expert when it comes to polls, but permit me to point out something that others have yet to acknowledge.

I was very interested in the section which detailed the results for people's different ages. It is easy to see a stark difference between the older generation and the younger generation. For example, when one looks at the older generation aged 65 and over, the results are as follows:

Remain part of the UK - 71%
Irish Reunification - 18%
Independent State - 3%
Other (specify) - 1%
(Don't know) - 7%

Now when looks at the younger generation aged 18-24, the results are as follows:

Remain part of the UK - 47%
Irish Reunification - 21%
Independent State - 22%
Other (specify) - 0%
(Don't Know) - 9%

Now one can draw many different conclusions to polls and many different conclusions can be drawn from the above information, but it seems to me that the younger generation is more open to different ideas and if one adds up the other options aside from the one favouring remaining in the UK, 47 per cent favour the status quo with 53 per cent favouring a new way forward.

I would like to make a final comment on the issue of Irish Reunification itself. It seems to me that we must pay close attention to what the people here who dismiss the idea of Irish reunification are actually dismissing. As it stands, there are no concrete proposals on Irish Unity in place. When Irish Unity is mentioned, does it conjure up an image of the present Irish Republic except one that will function on 32 counties? Does it conjure up a Sinn Fein-type United Ireland? I imagine the United Ireland that these people dismissed in the poll is one that many people in the South would dismiss too! In other words, they have dismissed a flawed model which, to me, isn't a devastating blow to Irish nationalism at all.

Some nationalists, such as myself, are open to new ideas and a way forward based on compromise and mutual progression. It is time that Irish nationalists focused on developing intelligent and inclusive proposals to target those who are not content with the status quo and it is clear from the poll that younger generations are certainly open to new ideas. It is time that nationalists started focusing on that.


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