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North would vote against united Ireland, but Republic overwhelmingly in favour – poll


A man passes a sign protesting against the Northern Ireland Protocol on Belfast's Shankill Road. PA

A man passes a sign protesting against the Northern Ireland Protocol on Belfast's Shankill Road. PA

A man passes a sign protesting against the Northern Ireland Protocol on Belfast's Shankill Road. PA

A new poll has suggested that people in Northern Ireland would vote to remain in the UK if a referendum was called in the present day.

Of those surveyed, 49 per cent said they would vote to stay in the UK while 43pc would support a united Ireland. The remainder were undecided.

The Lucid Talk poll, which had a sample size of 2,845 and a 2.5pc margin of error, was conducted for BBC NI's Spotlight programme over April 5-7.

Spotlight commissioned a similar poll in the Republic as part of a special programme reflecting on the centenary of Northern Ireland's foundation.

In the Irish Republic, 51pc of people said they would vote for a united Ireland while 27pc would vote against it. That poll was conducted by Lucid Talk/Ireland Thinks between April 6 and 9. The sample size was 1,008 with a 2.5pc margin of error.

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has called on the Irish and British governments to end their denial and to start planning for Irish unity.

Deputy McDonald said The Good Friday Agreement “expressly provides” for referenda on Irish unity to be held north and south and reminded both Irish and British governments they are “bound to uphold the Agreement”.

"Dismissive rhetoric does not - and cannot - take from their obligations. The British Prime Minister Boris Johnston has no right to stand in the way of progress and orderly constitutional change in Ireland. His comments on this evening's Spotlight programme are arrogant and unacceptable.

"Brexit and Covid-19 have each exposed the very real dangers of having two jurisdictions on our small island. Through Irish unity, we have an exciting opportunity to build an economically strong and diverse country that reconciles past divisions and looks to the future.

"The Irish government can no longer bury their heads in the sand. Failing to plan for constitutional change at this critical juncture represents a dereliction of duty. The Taoiseach's continued refusal to accept this reality is reckless,” Deputy McDonald said.

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The “responsible and necessary approach” is to now engage in discussions and dialogue, and to plan for change, the Sinn Féin leader said.

Ms McDonald said there should be a White Paper on Irish unity commissioned by the Government as an "immediate step”, before the establishment of an “Oireachtas Committee on Irish Unity, the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the convening of a citizens’ assembly on Irish reunification”.

On the programme, which aired last night, British prime minister Boris Johnson said he did not see a vote on Irish reunification taking place “for a very, very long time”.

The poll also asked people for their views on the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol that governs post-Brexit trading arrangements between the region and the rest of the UK.

In Northern Ireland, opinion was sharply divided, with 48pc wanting it scrapped and 46pc thinking it should be retained.

In the Irish Republic, 74pc said the Protocol should be retained, with 10pc saying it should be scrapped.

However, people in Northern Ireland were also asked whether their MLAs should vote for the region to remain in the Single Market when they decided on the Protocol's future in three years. Some 56pc said Northern Ireland should remain in the Single Market while 38pc said it should not.

In terms of Northern Ireland's constitutional position in the longer term, the survey asked people if they thought the region would still be within the UK in 10 years and in 25 years.

On the 10-year timeframe, 55pc of people in Northern Ireland felt it would still be in the UK, with 32pc believing a united Ireland would be achieved by then.

In the Republic, 59pc felt Northern Ireland would still be in the UK in 10 years, with 26pc predicted Irish unity would have been achieved by then.

The results were significantly different for 25 years. In Northern Ireland, 37% felt the region would still be part of the UK in 25 years, with 51% believing it would not.

In the Republic, 26pc felt Northern Ireland would still be part of the UK in 25 years, with 54pc saying it would not.

The poll, which was taken in a period when disorder was flaring in certain areas of Northern Ireland, asked people if they thought violence could return to the region.

In Northern Ireland, 76pc said yes. In the Republic, 87pc feared a potential return to conflict.

The survey also asked people if they thought the centenary should be celebrated. Of those questioned, 40pc agreed and 45pc disagreed.

In the Republic, 12pc said it should be celebrated and 50pc said it should not.

In Northern Ireland, 48pc said they believed partition was a negative development which should be regretted with 41pc disagreeing.

In the Irish Republic, 71pc said it was a negative development, with 7pc disagreeing.

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