A NEW POLL has shown that almost four-fifths of voters in Northern Ireland would prefer to stay within the United Kingdom than join a political union with Ireland.
A poll commissioned by the BBC’s Spotlight programme shows that if a referendum was to be held tomorrow on whether to break away from Britain and unify with the Republic of Ireland, 65 per cent would vote to maintain the links with Britain while only 17 per cent would approve joining with the Republic.
When undecided voters are excluded, the poll suggests that a referendum to join with the Republic would be defeated by 79 per cent to 21.
Among Catholic voters, there is greater firm support to remain part of the UK than to be joined with the Republic. 38 per cent of Catholic respondents to the poll said they would remain in the UK, while 35 said they would unify with the Republic. 9 per cent would abstain, with the remaining 18 per cent undecided.
The poll comes as Sinn Féin increases its calls for a ‘border poll’, demanding simultaneous referendums in the North and the Republic to decide on whether the 32 counties should be unified within a single state.
The calls have met with little sympathy from governments in either London or Dublin – with the former also contending with a referendum on Scottish independence late next year – but Unionist parties had been said to be favourable to the idea, confident that voters would support remaining part of the UK.
94 per cent of Unionist respondents to the poll said they would vote to keep Northern Ireland within the UK; only 2 per cent would vote for a United Ireland.
In both the Nationalist and Unionist communities, support for a United Ireland and the status quo respectively was stronger among lower working class respondents. 43 per cent of working class Nationalists would back reunion with Ireland; 95 per cent of working class Unionists wanted to retain the British Union.
Among those who identified as ‘Northern Irish’ – amounting to 25 per cent of the North’s population, according to the 2011 Census – 72 per cent said they would remain part of the UK, with a mere 7 per cent backing a reunification.
Support to abandon flags protests
The poll also questioned respondents on their opinions in the North’s recent controversy over flying the British flag at Belfast’s City Hall.
44 per cent of the public said they supported the decision to fly the flag on the 18 designated days, while 35 per cent said they wanted the flag flown 365 days a year. 10 pr per cent said they would not like it flown at all.
Among Unionists, there was 73 per cent support for the flag to be flown all year around, with 23 per cent supporting the decision to restrict the flying to designated days. Among Nationalists, the ‘designated days’ option was supported by 64 per cent, with only 5 per cent supporting a year-round presence.
20 per cent of Nationalists said they would not support the flag being flown at all – an opinion shared by no Unionists at all.
While 51 per cent of respondents said they agreed with the flag protests when they first started, 77 per cent said the ongoing protests should now stop.