And the survey says…

Here’s one for the number-crunchers out there. The Irish Times reports today on the Economic and Social Research Institute’s latest study. On the perennial question the report says –

In the North, 65 per cent of Catholics want a united Ireland. But 21.1 per cent believe it should remain in the UK, with 11.2 per cent favouring an independent Northern Ireland.

The study itself doesn’t appear to be online yet.. although the ESRI site has it listed for publication today. (We’ll be looking to see the actual wording of the question.)

In the meantime here are the relevant figures from the Irish Times’ Religious Affairs correspondent, Patsy McGarry –

More Catholics in the South favour an independent Northern Ireland than do Protestants in the South. Where Catholics are concerned, the figure is almost a third, at 32.5 per cent, while for southern Protestants it is less than a quarter, at 23.3 per cent.

Among southern Catholics, 54.9 per cent favour a united Ireland, while 9.1 per cent believe the North should remain in the UK. Among Protestants in the South 41.9 per cent favour a united Ireland, with 23.3 per cent believing the North should remain in the UK.

In the North, 65 per cent of Catholics want a united Ireland. But 21.1 per cent believe it should remain in the UK, with 11.2 per cent favouring an independent Northern Ireland.

Among northern Protestants an overwhelming 87.7 per cent believe Northern Ireland should remain in the UK, with 5.1 per cent favouring an independent Northern Ireland. Only 3.8 per cent favour a united Ireland.

The Irish Times report, goes on to say –

This[an “increasingly widespread acceptance of an Irish identity among the Protestant population in the Republic”] “has been accompanied by a growing sense of distance from northern Protestants and a rejection by southern Protestants of their portrayal by their northern co-religionists as an oppressed minority”. By the mid-1990s Protestants in the South were said to have far more in common with their Catholic fellow citizens than with their northern co-religionists.

A European Values Survey 1999-2000 found that 99 per cent of southern Catholics were “very/quite proud” to be citizens of the Republic while such figures for Protestants in the Republic was 93 per cent. Figures for the “very proud” among all citizens of the Republic have soared since the arrival of the Celtic Tiger, rising from 55 per cent in 1994 to 71 per cent in 2003.

  • Davros

    And I remember being vilified for daring to suggest that substantial nombers of RCs preferred Union with GB to Unification of Ireland….

  • Alan2

    This is quite interesting. This poll puts an independent NI amongst Protestants at 3% whereas on web poll`s I have consistently seen a figure of around 10-15% although this may be a figure from the whole population not just Protestants.

  • maca

    What I though interesting was “Among Protestants in the South … 23.3 per cent believing the North should remain in the UK.”
    Not surprising I suppose when people such as Paisley & co exist.

  • Ringo

    Good to see a few of the usual generalisations taking a bit of a battering here.

    Looks like religion isn’t really a significant factor regarding opinions in the south, and as Davros says the Catholic population in the north isn’t quite as monolithical as is portrayed. It would appear only northern prodestants are playing to type. Typical. 😉

    What is really interesting is that despite only 65% of Nortern Catholics expressing a preference for a UI, the Southern figure is even lower, at little over 50%. It is clear that getting a majority in favour of a UI in the north is only half the battle, a referendum in the south isn’t simply a case of a rubberstamp.

  • Ringo

    prodestants? arsebiscuits… protestants.

    apologies to the unoffended.

  • Alan2

    I think most people realise the problems in the South have long since been dealt with to a large degree plus you have to add into this the fact that many people considered as Irish Nationalists have turned to the Church of Ireland in recent decades.

  • maca

    Ringo
    “a referendum in the south isn’t simply a case of a rubberstamp”

    No but I think it would be an easy enough sell (depending on what concessions we’d have to make etc etc)

  • Bob Wilson

    In the interests of stirring things up.
    This study – like a number of other down the years – points to the fact that 1 in 5 Catholics in the North is pro Union. (Can’t use the term ‘unionist’ as it is associated with the 6 county Protestant tribalism of the UUP and DUP)
    Does anyone think the UUP could change sufficently to attract this huge swath of the electorate?
    Surely if the Union is their driving force and not the preservation of their historical tribe they should be considering radical change that might attract these voters?

  • beano

    I beg to differ, I think the referendum in the south would be a rubberstamping exercise. Much as I would love to believe it to be true, it may be more likely that in this opinion poll, where pollsters presumably approached people for their opinions, only half of them wanted a UI, but how many would actually make a conscious effort to come out and vote against it?

  • George

    Beano,
    have to say I agree with you that it would be a rubber stamping exercise in the Irish Republic.

    Just as with the GFA referendum south of the border in 1998 where anybody who expressed opposition to it was immediatedely accused of being “against peace”.

  • Will

    George
    Without igniting a different argument – it wasnt just no voters south of the border who were accused of ‘being against peace’.

  • maca

    Bob
    “1 in 5 Catholics in the North is pro Union.”

    Though I wonder what percentage would be easily persuaded to come over to the other side? Perhaps it is fear of the unknown rather than a great desire to be British? Just a thought…

    “Does anyone think the UUP could change sufficently to attract this huge swath of the electorate?”

    I don’t think the UUP are too interested in their votes. At least when I asked on a thread if they wanted my vote I got no direct response. And the related comments in the thread led me to believe that not only did they not want my vote but they felt that there was nothing about their party which needed changing in order to make them more attractive to non-unionists.

  • Bob Wilson

    Maca
    Surely one does not have to want to be British to remain in the UK?
    I agree with your view on UUP – have being by passed by DUP I really don’t see their purpose – if they aren’t prepared to change

  • maca

    Bob
    “Surely one does not have to want to be British to remain in the UK?”

    Well, if you vote to remain in the UK you are expressing a desire to be British, even if your vote is for economic reasons.

  • mnob

    Maca – ‘easy enough sell’ – you’re assuming the republic wouldn’t have to concede much to ‘assimilate’ the north then, or would things such as rejoining the commonwealth, fair employment legislation, policing boards, a parades commission, joint authorities with the UK government covering the new all Ireland state, parity of esteem for those who consider themselves british, including flying of the union flag on official buildings as well as a million whingeing prods complaining every time Dublin was picked for something over Belfast be an easy sell.

    😛

  • fair_deal

    “Though I wonder what percentage would be easily persuaded to come over to the other side?” – Maca

    This is an key question often overlooked by Unionism. Is the first and easier goal not to get this section of the Catholic community to stop endorsing Nationalist parties? Rather than making the switch to Unionism in one bound?

  • George

    “you’re assuming the republic wouldn’t have to concede much to ‘assimilate’ the north then, or would things such as rejoining the commonwealth, fair employment legislation, policing boards, a parades commission, joint authorities with the UK government covering the new all Ireland state, parity of esteem for those who consider themselves british, including flying of the union flag on official buildings as well as a million whingeing prods complaining every time Dublin was picked for something over Belfast be an easy sell”

    There wouldn’t be joint authority as the people of NI would be in control of much of their own affairs as part of a independent united Ireland. Hard to imagine but I don’t see it working in any other way.

    There would be only one national flag, voted for in the referendum on unification. This would be the official flag flown.

    There would be no Parades Commission as there would be no contentious parades. There would be no Queens Highway in a united Ireland either.

    Is the Commonwealth really that important to unionists and if it is and we don’t have to pay for it I can’t imagine it being a problem.

    Policing boards: why not if they work. If they don’t, then no.

    fair employment legislation: Don’t see a problem here. Anyway, is this not EU law?

    As for whinging about Dublin (the little union jacks as those outside the Pale call us) you’ll have to get in line with the rest of the country.

    Are these the only problems unionists have? Sheesh I might even live to see a united Ireland if that’s all there is.

  • mnob

    Right George, while we’re negotiating 🙂

    “There wouldn’t be joint authority as the people of NI would be in control of much of their own affairs as part of a independent united Ireland. “

    … but you could say that prior to 1972 the ‘people of NI were in control of much of their own affairs as part of a semi autonomous region of the UK, and look what happened there ! Anyway you’re trying to persuade nervous prods that they would be all right in a Republic so they (we ?) would demand this as part of a settlement.

    “There would be only one national flag, voted for in the referendum on unification. This would be the official flag flown.”

    Voted for in a single referendum or agreed by two referendum (one for the to be defunct NI) ? If a single referendum then I refer you to my answer above – after all if you had simple majority rule in NI then the official flag would be the ‘Ulster flag’ (ahem)

    “There would be no Parades Commission as there would be no contentious parades. There would be no Queens Highway in a united Ireland either.”

    So Orange parades would be non contentious or non occurring ?

    “Is the Commonwealth really that important to unionists and if it is and we don’t have to pay for it I can’t imagine it being a problem.”

    Excellent, we’ll bag that one and move on 🙂

    “Policing boards: why not if they work. If they don’t, then no.”

    Ditto.

    “fair employment legislation: Don’t see a problem here. Anyway, is this not EU law?”

    Hmm… you’re not really familiar with it then.

    Right, on to my next set of demands starting with 50% prods in the Garda 🙂 ….

  • Bob Wilson

    Maca:
    ‘Well, if you vote to remain in the UK you are expressing a desire to be British, even if your vote is for economic reasons.’
    Mmmh not sure. Isn’t part of the success of the UK its ability to accomodate cultural diversity and tolerate variations in National identity (sorry success of GB ;-))

    On the persuading point – a constant 65-70% of the people in NI are happy to stay in the UK. Surely the focus should be on getting everyone in NI to tolerate diversity in culture and identity?
    (Naive I know)

  • daithi

    Perhaps *the* most important issue in any future NI border poll will be the Principle of Consent.

    The SDLP proposals outlined a “United Ireland” whereby the institutions of the Agreement – the Assembly, Executive etc – would remain in being after a “United Ireland” was agreed to.

    But what about the Principle of Consent? Would that also remain in being?

    What if, seven years into a United Ireland, people up north were just fed up – and a majority emerged wishing to return to the Union?

    Would their wish be granted? Or would any “United Ireland” proposal be more on the lines of the Chinese finger-trap – once in, never out?

  • daithi

    Paul Murphy: “Not one change has been made” to the 1998 Agreement as a result of the Comprehensive Agreement.

    The Comprehensive Agreement *is* the Belfast Agreement + you’ve agreed to Speaking Rights in the Dail for Sinn Fein MPs + you’ve agreed to an All-Ireland Civic Forum with consultative powers + you’d agreed to devolution of Policing & Justice powers – meaning Gerry Kelly as Policing Minister.

    What happened? What happened to the “Fair Deal”? Or was that just propaganda to get ye into the negotiations?

    Well done Ian. Well done Peter.

  • daithi

    Wrong thread, shoot! 😉

  • maca

    Bob
    “Isn’t part of the success of the UK its ability to accomodate cultural diversity and tolerate variations in National identity”

    Ah, well there I disagree and highlight NI as the example, a failure of two (shared) identities to even simply live together. “success of GB” is spot on (with a footnote that sadly some backward attitudes still exist in GB, as they do in most states).
    I hope the UK becomes this and in the (unlikely) event of a UI I would hope New Ireland is this and more.

    “On the persuading point – a constant 65-70% of the people in NI are happy to stay in the UK. Surely the focus should be on getting everyone in NI to tolerate diversity in culture and identity?”

    It should be. The constitutional question takes all focus though. Somehow they (you? are you from NI?) have to put this question aside and get down to normnal politics. How the hell do you do this though? A border poll?

  • daithi

    A border poll would clear the air. Going on today’s ESRI figures (21% of Catholics for the Union, 5% of Protestants for a UI) a border poll would most likely result in a thumping 60-65% endorsement of the Union.

    The recent census has blown the sectarian “Catholics outbreeding Protestants” argument out of the ground – especially as 1 in 5 Catholics are pro-Union.

    Methinks it would be healthy for both sides to hold the poll, contest it healthily on both sides, and move on from there.

  • Biffo

    Bob Wilson & Maca

    “Mmmh not sure. Isn’t part of the success of the UK its ability to accomodate cultural diversity and tolerate variations in National identity (sorry success of GB ;-))”

    Bob, the short answer is “no”. The fact that you asked the question illustrates how supremely unsuccessful the UK has been at accomodating cultural diversity (i.e you were not aware that any existed in the first place, and I assume you actually live in the UK).

    If you are talking about “multiculturalism”, forget about it – it’s a meaningless word that is thankfully going out of fashion.

    If you meant the ability to absorb immigrants from different cultures the UK has no more ability to do this than the ROI.

  • IJP

    Daithi

    If the people of both jurisdictions opted for union with each other, I don’t think GB would subsequently offer the option of re-union for those in the North, regardless of what happened.

    In short, it would be final – but if the deal wasn’t right, you could expect a campaign for secession in the Northeast.

    Bob

    The ‘multicultural UK’ line is often peddled but frankly I don’t think Nationalists buy it, and I can see why.

    Those of us from the British tradition assume our liberties and rights will be safeguarded by the British constitution – but this is a vague thing which is why you really need to be from the British tradition (with an understanding from education and community of things such as Magna Carta, the Glorious Revolution and even the Great Reform Act of 1832) to understand and accept it. These safeguards do rely, however, on a generous degree of ‘fair play’. I’ve often thought of the British constitution as a bit like cricket (and not coincidentally), a bizarre sport with vague but mutually accepted rules only understood by those who grow up with it as part of their culture.

    Nationalists in NI are different from minorities elsewhere in the UK for two main reasons:
    – they never opted (in their ‘communal history’) to live within the British State; and
    – they have direct experience (often within living memory) of how the outworking of the British constitution specifically did not safeguard their rights and liberties.

    In short, therefore, I can understand how the ‘multicultural UK’ line rings hollow for many who are not of the British tradition.

    But perhaps some from ‘outside the British tradition’ could explain this better?

  • daithi

    Ian

    I take your point – in fact, I’d be doubtful if the Principle of Consent would form part of a “United Ireland” proposal in a border poll.

    But the very fact that it wouldn’t would negatively impact upon the nationalist side. I reckon there’s a bunch of people out there (mainly soft pro-Union Catholics) who may one day be willing to give a “United Ireland” a chance, but would be put off by the fact that this would be an irreversible change.

    Also, not that I see it happening, but a defeat by say 51-49 for NI Unionists would lead in fairly quick order to a campaign for secession.

    On the map a “United Ireland” is an impossible concept – but on the ground, perhaps a truer unity of Irish people may be found through respect for each other’s culture and tradition and through respecting the right of NI unionists to remain in the UK.

  • IJP

    Daithi

    I’m with you 110%.

    As I once put it: you must united Ireland before you unite Ireland.

    Our objective should be to minimize the effect/cost of constitutional change if it happens, and maximize mutual respect. The petty niggling of the ‘Big Four’ will not achieve that.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    Daithi, to me a reunification process would lead to the abolishment of the NI state in the form it exists in today so the framework within which the principle of consent exists would no longer exist; the people in NI would no longer exist as a separate unit of self-determination.

    I agree with you and IJP, of course, about reuniting the people of Ireland first, it’s a similar concept to the “decommissioning mindsets” cliche from years ago. If republicans have an interest in constructing a stable Irish state they will need to find a way to ensure that the separatists formerly known as hardline unionists do not get enough political traction to sustain a separatist campaign and establish an NI state. That would be a civil war.

    That is why I’m disturbed about the attitude from republicans including many of them who post on this discussion forum, which seems to be about biding their time until they have the necessary technical requirements in place by which to get their way in a border referendum. While I flatly reject the notion that unionists have a right to argue against a united Ireland by using the threat of potential loyalist violence as a reason to maintain the union, the possibility of such violence is nonetheless likely – look at the numbers of people voting DUP. Ironically, as in 1921, the leaders of the newly created all-island state could find themselves calling upon the British army for military support. The nightmare civil war scenario must be avoided at all costs. The SDLP’s proposal shows that they seem to have been thinking about that which is at least a start.