Thursday, June 21, 2007


Growing support for Irish Unity says survey

My thanks to a unionist reader for informing me that the results of the 2006 Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey are now available. As a nationalist the results made for pleasant reading.

I recall writing about the 2004 version of the survey on United Irelander which many felt spelled trouble for those in support of Irish unity (I disagreed). I found that survey very interesting and the latest results are equally fascinating.

I decided to compare and contrast the findings of the surveys. The latest one was carried out from the latter half of 2006 through to the early part of this year. 1230 adults were interviewed from NI.

It is the area of 'Political Attitudes' that I will be looking at. Here are some of the questions and in brackets I have put the responses from the 2004 survey.

Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a unionist, a nationalist or neither?

Unionist - 36% (-3)
Nationalist - 23% (-)
Neither - 40% (+3)
Don’t know - 1% (-)

Interestingly for the first time we have more people claiming to be neither unionist nor nationalist. In the 2004 survey more people identified themselves as unionists. I take encouragement from this as should other Irish nationalists. Clearly there are plenty of people to be won over if the proper policies are there.

Do you think the long-term policy for Northern Ireland should be for it … remain part of the United Kingdom - 54% (-5)
Or, to reunify with the rest of Ireland? - 30% (+8)
(Independent state) - 3% (-8)
Other (specify) - 1% (-1)
(Don't know) - 12% (+5)

Good news. The desire to remain in the UK is waning and the desire to share a state with the rest of the island is growing. The 'Independent State' notion has withered away as I suspected it would. Plenty of undecided people out there too. Again very heartening results for nationalists and I think very worrying results for unionists.

If the majority of people in Northern Ireland ever voted to become part of a United Ireland do you think you …

would find this almost impossible to accept - 10% (-1)
would not like it, but could live with it if you had to - 43% (-3)
or, would happily accept the wishes of the majority? - 42% (+2)
Don't know - 6% (+3)

Yet again very encouraging results. The number who would "happily accept" has risen and the number that would "find this almost impossible to accept" has slightly fallen. Good stuff.

Here is the main one though - "View on future of Northern Ireland". Here are the results (It actually trails off but I believe the 'e' stands for 'elected assembly'):

Northern Ireland should become independent separate from the... - 2%
Northern Ireland should become independent separate from the... - 4%
Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK with its own e... - 42%
Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK with its own e... - 16%
Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK without an ele... - 5%
Northern Ireland should unify with the Republic of Ireland... - 23%
Don’t know - 9%

This is perhaps the most encouraging of all. While most desire to remain part of the UK, unification "with the Republic of Ireland" remains the second most popular option, and at this stage the details of such an arrangement aren't even known. Personally I desire a whole new Ireland and I think that would be more popular than unity "with the Republic". But here's the interesting part - when they break it down into groups. Here's what happens when you break it down to the sexes...

Northern Ireland should unify with the Republic of Ireland...
Men - 24%
Women - 23%

It's actually one of the most popular choices if you check the table.

Now then, remember those people who criticised me for dismissing the views of young Catholic children who seemed supportive of 'Northern Irishness' on the BBC programme? Remember how I didn't buy that this should be taken as support for partition remaining? Well here's the breakdown in terms of religion - and remember ADULTS were polled here...

Northern Ireland should unify with the Republic of Ireland

Catholics - 48%
Protestants -2%
No religion - 22%

It's a bloody landslide. Far more Catholics prefer a united Ireland to Northern Ireland remaining in the UK which turns out to be 19% of Catholics. Personally speaking I'd like to see more Protestants supporting Irish Unity but the numbers of atheists supporting a united Ireland is heartening.

But the opinions of the young generation certainly matter! Let's see what the 18-24 bracket think...

Northern Ireland should unify with the Republic of Ireland...

The 18-24 age group - 39%

See that? 39%! Well above those in support of NI remaining in the UK which is a paltry 14%.

The 25-34 age bracket - 23%

Again a healthy result. The 35-44 age bracket has 26%. It's not until you get to the 45-54 and the 55-64 age bracket does it start to wane, although strangely it is strong amongst the 65+ age bracket.

What does this mean? It means that the young generation of NI - free of intimidation from terrorists - are starting to realise that a united Ireland makes a whole lot of sense.

They feel more and more disillusioned about being part of a state that does not want them. They now want to be part of a state that DOES want them and which, more importantly, they want to be a part of.

The argument for a united Ireland is succeeding. When you take away the terrorists and when you put Ian Paisley at the forefront of unionism, suddenly the idea of having a united Ireland becomes a lot more attractive!

I have said repeatedly that within this century we will see this island reunited. I feel this poll, while not 100 per cent reliable admittedly, nonetheless hints at things to come - the inevitable reunification of the country.

What are your thoughts on the results?


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