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51% of people in Northern Ireland support Irish unification, new poll finds

That’s according to the latest poll published by Lord Ashcroft.

Image: Brian O'Leary via RollingNews.ie

A NEW POLL has shown just over half of people in Northern Ireland would vote for Irish unification if there were a border poll tomorrow.

The poll, published by Lord Ashcroft, shows that 45% of those surveyed said they would vote to stay in the UK, while 46% said they would choose to leave and join the Republic of Ireland. 

This breaks down to 51% to 49% for unification when don’t knows and those who say they would not vote are excluded. 

“This is in fact a statistical tie, and well within the margin of error,” Lord Ashcroft said in his analysis of the results. 

“Such a result might also reflect the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding Brexit, the Irish border and its potential effect on life in the province, which could recede when the outcome is settled,” he said. 

“Be that as it may, the result underlines what could be at stake in the quest for a workable Brexit solution on the island of Ireland.” 

Lord Ashcroft is a businessman and politician. Since the 2010 election, he has conducted independent public polls relating to British political opinions. 

1,542 adults in Northern Ireland were interviewed online between 30 August and 2 September for his latest poll on Irish unification. 

One in 20 self-declared Unionists said they would opt for unification and a further 6% said they didn’t know how they would vote. 

Women (13%) were more likely than men (3%) to say they were not sure how they would vote. 

The over-65 age group was the only one with a clear majority for remaining in the Union (62% to 38% when excluding don’t knows and those who wouldn’t vote). 

Border poll tomorrow

A majority of those surveyed (59%) think that if there were a referendum tomorrow, Northern Ireland would chose to remain part of the UK. 

However, when asked what the outcome would be in 10 years’ time, the results were reversed. Most believed (54%) that the vote would be in favour of unification, with just three in 10 people believing voters would choose to remain in the UK. 

The results show that Unionists are considerably less confident about the chances of winning a vote in 10 years’ time. However, 87% of Unionists believe Northern Ireland would vote to remain in the UK if a border poll were held tomorrow. 

Meanwhile, Nationalists are more confident. While just over half (53%) think Northern Ireland would vote for unification tomorrow, 93% believe this would be the case in 10 years’ time. 

More than half of voters in Northern Ireland (51%) thinks that Brexit makes Irish unification in the foreseeable future much more likely to happen. Just 9% of people said Brexit makes it a much less likely outcome. 

A total of 51% of those surveyed in Northern Ireland said they would like to see the UK remain in the EU. 

There have been a number of other polls conducted on the topic of Irish unification in recent months.

A Red C poll in May showed increase in the number of people who believe a united Ireland is more likely because of Brexit.

The survey, commissioned by pro-EU group European Movement (EM) Ireland, found that 50% of those polled said it was more likely – up 6% on the 44% of people polled in March 2018.

In a poll for Claire Byrne Live/Amárach Research in January, 44% of Irish people said they felt a referendum on a united Ireland should be held.

Political opinions

In July, the Mayor of Belfast, Sinn Féin’s John Finucane, said the Irish government must lead the way in making plans and preparations for Irish unification. 

Speaking to the MacGill Summer School on 23 July, Finucane said the debate about Irish unity does not just belong to Sinn Féin, but to everyone on the island. 

He called on the Irish government to set up a unit within government to begin preparations for the possibility of Irish unity, highlighting that the Scottish government has done so.

The Belfast mayor also called for an Oireachtas committee on Irish unity to be established. He also called on the Taoiseach to “appoint an Minister of State with the dedicated and specific responsibility of developing strategies to advance Irish unity and coordinating the Government’s all-Ireland policies”.

The previous weekend, Ireland’s Ambassador to the UK said a poll on a united Ireland would “degrade” attempts to resolve the ongoing impasse over Britain’s departure from the EU.

Adrian O’Neill told BBC Radio 4′s The Week in Westminster programme that the current priority for the Irish government was to restore the Northern Ireland Executive at Stormont.

Last year, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said a no-deal Brexit would bring the timeline for a border poll on a united Ireland forward.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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