Evolving attitudes on unity come into sharper focus

Anyone doubting the seismic shift need only look at how its reverberations catapulted Arlene Foster out of the cockpit of the DUP. Photo: David Young/PA Wire

Irish Independent

When change is brewing – as it certainly is in relationships on these islands – we need to open our eyes a little wider. There is much to expand horizons in today’s poll.

Many will be taken with the pragmatism and realism in evolving perceptions. The disparity in the strong support for unity on this part of the island compared with that in the North is also notable.

The readiness to pay for the privilege is less assured. There is broad acceptance in both directions that a unity referendum may well take place over the next five years. Two in three here favour unity, compared with one in three in the North.

In the context of Mammon versus either patriotism, or loyalism, the pocket seems to be king. Asked if they are prepared to pay more tax to fund unity, in the Republic more than half say no – 54pc. Over the Border, two-thirds are unwilling to pay higher taxes.

But nearly half of those who identify as Irish in the North would. Those who have regarded Brexit as the Pandora’s box that unleashed a cascade of unpredictable and uncontrollable outcomes will be quick to detect its influence in explaining attitudes.

It has created sufficient turbulence to jostle some people out of their rigid positions, while compelling others to cling on even tighter. As the UK divorced from the EU, new boundaries and frontiers refashioned the political landscape. They have also influenced traditional thinking. Loyalism may still distrust and wish to distance itself from Dublin. But dynamics have altered. London and Brussels negotiated the border down the Irish Sea, which has proven so immediately contentious. Anyone doubting the seismic shift need only look at how its reverberations catapulted Arlene Foster out of the cockpit of the DUP. If the biggest unionist party is not at one with itself, it is not surprising there is so little appetite for trusting in new paradigms.

Less than half of those contacted this side of the Border feel a united Ireland will come about in their lifetime. In the North, it was 39pc and only 35pc would welcome it. Those in the south who smugly look down on intolerance of diversity in the North, should note how only one in four would be comfortable with Orange men marching in Dublin. As is the case with all polls, the asking of the question, provoking discussion, is often more important than the answer. If the “unthinkable” for either side is to become more tangible, we should tread warily because many of these issues are still incendiary.

Agreement on Wolfe Tone’s idea – “To substitute the common name of Irishman in place of denominations of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter” – still looks remote.

Journalism doesn’t have much time to speculate on the should’ve been, could’ve been and might’ve been hypothetical situations. Yet these findings offer us a clearer window to look at all possibilities. The conversation continues, and we listen.