Northern Ireland poll slightly backs Irish unity
The Lord Michael Ashcroft survey asked voters“ in the event of a referendum on whether or not Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom”.
Around 46 per cent said they would opt for Northern Ireland to leave the UK and join the Republic of Ireland, with 45 per cent saying they would choose to remain in the UK.
For years London could portray itself as a bastion of stability and economic prosperity, compared to the backward, Catholic-dominated Republic. However, while Ireland has advanced progressive policies through sensible referendums and grown more prosperous, the UK has descended into interminable Brexit chaos through a shambolic referendum of its own.
The poll would mean a lead of 51 per cent to 49 per cent for unification if “don’t knows” and respondents who said they would not vote were excluded.
Ashcroft, an ex-Conservative member of the House of Lords, has been a public pollster of UK political opinion since 2010.
The idea of a united Ireland was more popular among younger voters, with 60 per cent support in the 18-24 age group, 55 per cent of 25- to 44-year-olds; 51 per cent of 45- to 64-year-olds and 38 per cent of those older than 65.
The poll reported that 5 per cent of “unionists” now said they wanted to break the union.
Ashcroft’s team spoke to1,542 adults in Northern Ireland since August 30.
“This is, in fact, a statistical tie, and well within the margin of error. 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,” Ashcroft 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.”
The 1998 Good Friday peace agreement says a referendum on a united Ireland should be held in the six counties controlled by London when there is a clear majority in favour of Irish unity.
Almost half of the respondents said they felt “less close” to Britain than five years ago, including 49 per cent of nationalists and 16 per cent of unionists.
Only 51 per cent said they thought Brexit made unification “more likely”, including 90 per cent of nationalists.
Brexit has pushed moderate Northern Irish opinion away from the union. Picture credit: Eurasia Times