Few people favour a United Ireland…

The latest Life and Times Survey has come to my notice through ATW and Everything Ulster. Although a lot of the interesting material is around the desireability or otherwise of a Truth Commission (some lukewarm support but there’s also scepticism over it’s potential outcomes) these two blogs focus on the unpopularity a United Ireland. However, it’s clear also that there’s less aggressive opposition to either of the zero sum options than in the past:

In 2001, the proportion of people who could not tolerate a vote for an all island state was 18%. Whilst those who could not tolerate there never being such a state was 4%. In 2004, the proportions drop to 11% and 2% respectively.

It seems the heat is slowly draining from the constitutional issue?

  • Keith M

    No surprises there, but it would be interesting to see how the numbers would split on a straight UK versus “united Ireland” option. Given that the numbers in favour of the UK were around 2-1 when the south left the UK the overall swing has been miniscule in over 80 years. The one thing we say say for sure is that unless there is an unprecedended change of mind in Northern Ireland, no one alive today will see a “United Ireland” before they die.

    One interesting thing from these (and previous poll) results is that there are a lot of people voting for SF/IRA and the SDLP who do not have a “united Ireland” as their favoured option and as the older people get, the happier they appear to be with the status quo. This being important because older people tend to be more likely to vote.

  • spirit-level

    A debate hasn’t really been had yet about the possible futures for Northern Ireland. Called a white paper is it? Until people actually know what a United Ireland would mean, or entail, in terms of policing, power structures etc a straw poll is pretty meaningless. Though I do accept its disappointing from a republican perspective.
    Must court the 53% of Catholics not in favour, and persuade the Unionists to try to stay young 😉

  • David

    I see that 11% favour an independent Northern Ireland as the long term solution, and more interestingly this option is preferred disproportionately in the younger age groups (22% of 18-24s, i.e. more popular than a united Ireland to that age group).

    It is a pity no political party adopts independence as their policy.

  • Enniskillen DUP

    24% of Roman Catholics are in favour of remaining in the UK. I believe that with a logic discussion and debate on this topic the other large section of RCs who are undecided would vote to retain the union.
    Who would really want to live in a boom and bust economy like that in the Republic which relies so heavily on EU funding to improve there terrible infrastructure (a lot of which comes from the UK!).

    I think in the next year our so there will be a lot of progrees made on this topic by the DUP. Recently a dozen or so joined my local branch and times are most certainly are a changing…

  • David Vance

    David,

    You may be aware that I have advocated radical Independence.

  • G2

    .” Recently a dozen or so joined my local branch and times are most certainly are a changing..”.

    Enniskillen DUP,

    Surely you are not saying that a dozen or so (catholics) joined your local DUP branch?

  • Sol

    well he isnt talking about trees now is he?

  • martin

    G2,

    don’t be surprised; those Catholics are just part of the wider Fenian/taig conspiracy to steal fair Ulster

  • martin

    G2,

    don’t be surprised; those Catholics are just part of the wider Fenian/taig conspiracy to steal fair Ulster.

    Remember Castledawson!

  • Nathan

    Its refreshing to know that more NI people, from the younger generation in particular, prefer the one island, two independent Republics model, as opposed to the status quo.

    Its a shame that independence isn’t mooted here on slugger that often. After all, this is a site which supposedly records diverse opinion on the long term future of NI. So you’d think that it would be the optimal setting for people to think outside the box on a regular basis, and wrestle with all sorts of options in order to see whether an agreed autonomous NI is remotely possible.

    On the plus side, an independent Republic of NI would lead to the end of British jurisdiction in Ireland, which meets the requirements of the Irish Republican Army Council so far as I am aware.

  • IJP

    It seems the heat is slowly draining from the constitutional issue?

    Correct.

    It is a pity no political party adopts independence as their policy.

    It would be foolish for any party to adopt that as a policy because it is currently unfeasible. If something is unfeasible, whether or not it is desirable becomes irrelevant.

    We could of course make it feasible by getting on with addressing the real issues – principally economy and security. If we sorted these out, all constitutional options (inclusive NI within the UK, a stable all-Ireland state, and Northern independence) would be feasible and the debate would become valid (though also probably irrelevant!)

    On the Truth Commission, truth and reconciliation can only come about while people are prepared to face up to them.

  • objectivist

    Remember one of the golden rules of NI politics:
    Never believe opinion polls.

  • Henry94

    It’s supporters have often suggested that the EU woud render our dispute meaningless. That may happen in a way they did not expect. The long term prognosis for Europe is not so good. Demographics and an unwillingness to embrace global economic change are problems that will lead to at best stagnation and at worst instability.

    Both the UK and Ireland may need to consider other options.

    Catholics voting for the DUP may appear strange but if you look at their policies on issues other than the constitutional issue they would be similar to the policies that win votes for Dana in the south.

    Meanwhile Sinn Fein MEPs helped vote down Rocco Buttinloine’s nomination for the EU Commission because of his Catholic views.

    So who are the anti-Catholic bigots now?

    The funny thing is the closest we could get to rome rule these days would be an independent north with a DUP majority. The Pope might never be invited to visit but he would approve of the policies.

    Habit, as Beckett said, is a great deadener and I think most of our politics are little but habit now.

  • Nathan

    “On the Truth Commission, truth and reconciliation can only come about while people are prepared to face up to them.”

    Correct IJP, that is a necessary pre-requisite. I’d still like to see an all-Ireland Truth Commission emerge at some stage though. In the meantime, nothing is stopping communities taking tenative steps to come to terms with the past. Last year in the south for instance, a truth and reconciliation lecture took place, bringing together all sections of the community – local Church of Irelanders, Free State sympatherisers, ex-official sinn fein activists, 32CSM etc – all attempting to come to terms with the past misdeeds of a Fianna Fail government in respect of George Plant, a Church of Ireland Republican from Tipperary, who was rounded up and executed without a trial, on the orders of the Free State government in 1942.

    That peace and reconciliation lecture was a breath of fresh air, because it meant that a line in the sand could be drawn, and past misdeeds recognised. It served to take out some of the thorns for the local Church of Ireland community in particular, some of whom had harboured a grudge for the eventual actions by deValera against his former comrade.

    His actions, I feel, illustrated a person who was every bit as draconian as the British. Especially when you consider that he left his newborn son, George Jnr, growing up not knowing his father at all. That was the prevailing mood at this lecture, although most were unwilling to allow this sore to fester any longer – thats what peace and reconciliation is all about and it would be great if people in the north could follow suit.

  • Fraggle

    “Who would really want to live in a boom and bust economy like that in the Republic which relies so heavily on EU funding to improve there terrible infrastructure (a lot of which comes from the UK!”

    Me! I’m moving down ASAP. Could you back up your statement on EU funding with some facts please?

  • crow

    If you live in the north and want a decent job that pays a decent wage you will probably have to seek employment in the south or uk mainland.The easier option of the two would be the south.

  • Baluba

    Lies, damn lies and statistics.

    Opinion polls so often have the stench of BS coming off them.

  • bootman

    very interesting to see the numbers who favour the united kingdom option getting lower and lower as the respondents get younger

  • Mick

    Baluba,

    Some logical exposition of your opinion would help.

  • crow

    A better transport infrastructure connecting the north and the south is long overdue.The trains are not frequent enough or reliable enough.The roads connecting the north and south are also not nearly good enough in the border areas.

  • beano; EverythingUlster.com

    Bootman, it is curious. More curious though is that these people seem to be drifting towards an independent Ulster rather than a all-Ireland republic. I would guess that if they didn’t have the option of an IU they’d revert back to UK, although the figures for such a question could be interesting.

  • crow

    The track record of politicains in the north would make me feel uneasy if there was a IU.

  • Ringo

    Who would really want to live in a boom and bust economy like that in the Republic which relies so heavily on EU funding to improve there terrible infrastructure (a lot of which comes from the UK!).

    Not so Enniskillen DUP. While you might comfort yourself with thoughts like this, unfortunantely it is just a myth.

    EU funding amounts to 7.3%. And basically none of it comes from the UK, unless you want me to start taking credit for the upgrade to the Killyhelvin, the Erne waterways upgrade and the £1m+ that Fermanagh local government got etc, etc.. Obviously as a taxpayer in a net contributing country in the EU I’m delighted to see my taxes paying for Hotel upgrades in Fermanagh.

    The total amount of funding provided from the EU Structural and Cohesion Funds available to Ireland over the seven-year period of the National Development Plan(2000-2006) is approximately EUR 3.8 billion. (Roughly 560m pa).

    The Irish contribution to the NDP (which involves an investment of over EUR 48 billion of non-EU funds over the period 2000-2006. (Roughly 6.8bn pa).

    http://www.eustructuralfunds.ie

    NDP

    In other words, EU funding is 7.3% of the total infrastructural funding. All that moeny being poured into infrastructure projects? – thats ours.

    Now to Northern Ireland. The total value of EU funding to Northern Ireland for 2000-2006 is €1.4 billion, or approximately £1 billion.

    http://www.ofmdfmni.gov.uk

    So…. very interestingly, with approx 4milliom people in the Republic sharing €3.8bn, and 1.5m people in NI sharing €1.4bn – there is little or no difference between what you’re getting and what we’re getting. Except for the rebate of course.

  • Oilbhear Chromaill

    The accuracy of this survey could be guaged by looking at the question relating to what party the respondents support.
    According to this 21% support the UUP, 17% the SDLP, 16% the DUP and just 9% for SF. Given the recent election results, I feel that NILT survey isn’t at all representative.

  • Baluba

    Mick,

    Very simple. I was using a quote to say what everyone knows or acknowledges at one time or another (especially when they don’t like the result), that surveys and opinin polls are often off the mark, inaccurate, way off the mark, nowhere near the mark etc

    I wouldn’t be so sure about this one either.

  • JD

    I agree totally with spirit levels comments earlier. The debate on this subject has not even begun. There has been no proper pro and con arguments articulated particularly from the pro stance. I feel that once a proper level headed debate was undertaken that many people would see the logic of re-unification and that opinion polls such as these would show a very different result.

  • Enniskillen DUP

    G2,

    Yes Roman Catholics call them what you may. I find it hard to consider they are “part of the wider Fenian/taig conspiracy to steal fair Ulster” considering the amount of hours they spent canvassing during the election.

    So how many protestants are in your local SF cumann?

  • Blackadder

    “A debate hasn’t really been had yet about the possible futures for Northern Ireland. Called a white paper is it? Until people actually know what a United Ireland would mean, or entail, in terms of policing, power structures etc a straw poll is pretty meaningless”

    Very true. Until the benefits and drawbacks of either staying with the Union or having a UI were made clear then it is hard to know people’s responses. I imagine there will be a certain amount on either side who will vote on purely identity (Irish/British) criteria, but there would be many who would wait until they find out what the implications are before deciding.

  • beano; EverythingUlster.com

    OC in response to your worries about the accuracy because the results differ from the election, that would be at least in part down to the fact that this survey actively asked people for their opinion rather than passively wait for them to come to a polling station to express it. Is it not the case that SF and DUP ‘supporters’ are more likely to vote?

  • George

    Enniskillen DUP,
    Northern Ireland got three times as much EU money per capita as the Republic, but as with the Republic the majority went to farmers.

    I assume you heard your man Simpson speak in the House of Commons yesterday during Northern Ireland Question Time, asking about rate charges.

    The reply he got was that the people of Northern Ireland pay less than half the public charges and taxes than their English, Welsh and Scottish counterparts.

    Northern Ireland gets three times the money, pays half the taxes and is still a complete basket case and you have the nerve to call the Irish Republic, which the OECD says will be the fastest growing developed economy in the world between now and 2020, a boom and bust economy.

    Keep living in that dreamworld if it helps you get to sleep at night. But don’t be surprised if nobody takes you seriously.

  • John East Belfast

    The ‘Pro Agreement’ Ulster Unionist strategy of protecting the Union by making NI a stable economic and political entity continues to bear fruit. Such an environment will deliver economic prosperity as well as keeping a large section of nationalism happy with the status quo and even persuading some of them to become unionists.

    We are not there yet as the other thread about the ROI getting a disproportionately larger share of Inward Foreign Investment but if we can deliver full political stability then the floodgates will open. Now is a good time to start a business in NI.

    Meanwhile with the wheels coming off EU political integration then the I would put my 20 year money on closer economic (and greater political cooperation)links between the UK and ROI.
    What this poll highlights is how a new generatuon (even in Ireland) can take a totally different view than their parents and grand parents.
    The language, geography, shared histories and cultures could easily sway a future generation of the logic of some kind of Federated British Isles if not an outright UK of GB & Ireland.

    There will increasingly be no case for an independent Ireland and instead the view that the Irish should play their full role and punch above their weight in a greater British nation will come to the fore.

    We simply can’t predict how our grandchildren will behave but if we can provide them with the right inheritance then time is on the Union’s side.

    So long as the begrudgers and wreckers of the DUP don’t play into the hands of republicans who will be unsettled by both this poll in addition to the fact that the demographics are not going to deliver for them either.

  • Papa Razzi

    Enniskillen DUP

    Recently a dozen or so joined my local branch

    It’s true, I spotted three of them: Jean Marie Le Pen, Jorg Haider and Silvio Berlusconi, but who were the other nine or so?

  • Enniskillen DUP

    papa,

    People like you have scorned upon the DUP for years branding them as anti-catholic. Now when I inform you that there are actually Roman Catholics in the DUP you just resort to slander.

    You just can’t stand it that some sane minded Roman Catholics see the benefits of living within the United Kingdom. Unlike yourself they don’t wish to spend all their lives wallowing in self-pity.

    Shame on you for your two-faced bigotry!

  • Ringo

    Enniskillen DUP has a point though George.

    The state of the roads between those booming cities and running up to the big shiney facades of all those enormous high-tech companies is just dreadful. How do all those poor highly-paid peasants survive?

  • Papa Razzi

    Enniskillen DUP

    gotcha – too young to realise I was taking the michael? Pull the key out now, you’re well too wound up!

  • Lawboy

    I find the thought of an independant Northern Ireland to be a very exciting idea. Plus with Ulster already being a member of the European Community we would be automatically accepted. The lower GDP within Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK and Eire would mean we would get further funding from Brussels which would help to educate, travel, integrate and stabilise the youth of today.

  • marty

    Lawboy – The lower GDP within Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK and Eire would mean we would get further funding from Brussels…

    Does anyone know what the NI GDP is? Given that most local employment is public sector I’m assuming an independent NI would need seriously heavy funding from the EU for quite a number of years.

  • Enniskillen DUP

    pappa,

    Obviously I knew you were joking, well trying to be funny anyway.
    Roman Catholics will find a very warm welcome in the DUP.

  • George

    Marty,
    the GDP of Northern Ireland is 79.2% of that of the UK average, up from 79% in 1997.

    At this rate, it will catch up with the rest of the UK in 735 years.

  • DaithiO

    “Roman Catholics will find a very warm welcome in the DUP.”

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!!!!

    Next thing we’ll hear is the self-styled doctor/reverend taking tea in Rome with his good friend the Pope.

  • marty

    George,
    thanks for response.

    I don’t like to sound negative towards the pro-independence people, but can you see an independent NI working economically? And I don’t mean replacing one form of subsidy (UK) with another…

  • George

    Marty,
    I don’t know but let’s say it happened, what would I do to try and make it work? (This would need the full support of the Republic and UK)

    Defence and security:
    Introduce a common defence area for Ireland and Britain. The island as a whole would be neutral but in return the 2 Irelands would agree to help defend Britain in any way it could if it was attacked, including troops. No foreign jaunts, just in Britain, helping defend Britain. And vice versa, should the case arise that Iceland decided they hated us. No conscription ever. Agreed policy on policing.

    Economy:
    Harmonisation of VAT, corporate, interest and fuel tax rates to prevent smuggling and to ensure a level field for business. A single Criminal Assets Bureau for the whole island. Single currency zone, either the euro or some other new currency. Perhaps the introduction of an “island tax”, deducted at source, to ensure that funds are available for projects of mutual interest.

    Infrastructure:
    Agreed all-island body to ensure best use of health, education and other infrastructure to reduce duplication.

    Education and Health:
    recognition of all qualifications and equal entitlements regardless of jurisdiction. Requirement to offer the same levels of health care regardless of where you are. This would mean departments in both jurisdictions working closely together.

    Citizenship:
    Everybody has the same rights regardless of jurisdiction – this includes the Irish language, Orange culture, Gaelic Games, Northern Ireland football team etc. We would all be Irish and Northern Irish.

    Could that really work and what would that leave different? Your guess is as good as mine.

  • marty

    George,
    interesting response, thanks for taking the time (and don’t be put off by my brief response, I need to dash here).

    I can’t see it working, can you?

    I imagine, to nationalists, that an independent NI would look like a rebranded NI. And anything bar 32 county unity won’t be acceptable to RM. Additionally, the ROI would need to have a large amount of input that would probably put off the DUP etc.

    Cheers.

  • marty

    Forgot to add…

    Ultimately I fear that a standalone NI just cannot generate the money as it stands.

  • martin

    Enniskillen DUP.

    2 Protestants in the local branch that I know of maybe more,I however am not a card carying member of the party myself .

    I know that these 2 protestants are in Sinn Fein because along with 7 others they were in the paper reasonly complaining about harrasment from garda

    Sorry i should add that one of the protestants is no longer a church goer, and is bascically agnostic in her beliefs-but since that is same behaviour of most of the people on the Island who still refer to themselves as Catholic/Protestant im sure you would still count her.

  • martin

    Enniskillen DuP.

    I am a northerner living in the south part time student/work.

    Back home in Tyrone i do know a few decent protestants with not a sectarian bone in their bodies who support the DUP to be fair.

  • Cahal

    “More curious though is that these people seem to be drifting towards an independent Ulster rather than a all-Ireland republic.”

    Would this be achieved by first having an independent northern Ireland followed by a military annexation of the 3 Ulster counties in the ROI? Or the other way around?

    Surely the majority of people in Ulster are in favor of a U.I. and not some independent Ulster where SF would probably be the biggest party?

    Would Munster, Leinster and Connaught also have to go it alone?

    As far as I am concerned there are not and never will be two Irelands as somebody said above. It’s like saying there are two Englands.

    Also, I went to a mixed school and never encountered anyone in favor of independence. Something smells fishy about these stats. I can also honestly say I’ve never known a Catholic who was not in favor of a UI. Some where ambivalent but none actively supported the union with the British.

  • Robert Keogh

    The survey in voter numbers:
    UK 59% = 700K
    UI 22% = 260K
    INI 11% = 130K

    Nationalists received 300K votes in the last elections, Unionists 370K.

    So not only do the SDLP and SF get 100% of the nationalist vote out, they also have 40k unionists voting for them. I don’t think anyone buys that scenario for a nano-second.

    There is just no way you can get a statistically significant pool of people in NI that will all honestly answer a border poll survey.

    I think people are so caught up in the tribes that the fact there are a 100K (and growing) population of immigrants that are neither Nationalist or Unionist. They will be the swing vote in any border poll and whomever courts them will win the day.

  • Cahal

    Robert, there may be 100,000 immigrants but how many of them are elligable to vote?

  • Tochais Síoraí

    A lot of people, especially nationalists in NI, say they don’t want a united Ireland when asked by pollsters simply because they believe Unionist opposition would make it unstable or even bring about armed opposition. If however they were asked about a UI that Unionists were prepared to live with, far more would say yes.

    Fascinating to learn there are are a dozen Catholic members of your local party branch, Enniskillen DUP!!! How do you know they’re Taigs, do they wear their Fermanagh GAA jerseys to meetings or what?

  • Cahal

    “How do you know they’re Taigs, do they wear their Fermanagh GAA jerseys to meetings or what”

    You can generally tell by the spacing of the eyes in my experience.

  • David

    Some points on the idea of an independent Northern Ireland:

    1. Interestingly the poll concerned said that an independent NI is preferred by a larger percentage of Catholics than of Protestants. There is a tendency to dismiss the idea as Stormont on steroids, yet the people most supportive of it would seem to be those who would least like to see that type of system.

    2. Many people ask why anyone should work for an independent NI when the idea is not really practical, yet very few people think that there is a problem with working for a united Ireland which is no more practical.

    3. One of the main reasons why an independent NI is regarded as impractical is because it would require economic subsidies. I do not accept that this will always be the case. Economies change, rich countries become poor and poor counries become rich. Our current economic position is not set in stone.

  • IJP

    David

    very few people think that there is a problem with working for a united Ireland which is no more practical.

    I should point out that I do have a problem with working towards a united Ireland when it isn’t practical.

    We should all work towards a functioning NI which could then make a realistic choice about its future. Who knows, maybe independence would be the choice.

    Your economic case is of course correct (and applies equally to a ‘united Ireland’, again perfectly feasible provided people make the right choices for economy and security) – the Republic managed it, after all.

  • cladycowboy

    Independent NI? Not a hope in paisleys hell. The beloved free market that unionists talk about would swallow it up whole

  • marty

    George,
    having had time to read your 4:37pm from yesterday…

    It raises the question – what is the point in an independent NI? I can’t see one myself:

    * majority of employment currently focused in public sector – where will the new jobs come from?

    * huge amounts of subsidy required from EU (and potentially from UK as well during a phased transition)

    * some sort of miracle required to bring manufacturing back to the country

    Obviously you could argue that over a period of time, and with a level of subsidy, that NI could stand on it’s own two feet. I couldn’t see it happening though. Could anyone?

  • George

    Marty,
    I find myself in agreement with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of all people, who when he was here recently said Northern Ireland would only be a success if everyone was pulling in the same direction.

    One of the major factors in the Irish Republic’s turnaround is that virtually the entire nation, the establishment, young and old, left and right, realised something had to be done and started doing it. Everyone took the hit in the late 80s and early 90s with Ray McSharry’s (aka Mac the Knife) budget. Before that there was talk of defaulting on our national debt – doing a Brazil as we called it at the time.

    I myself emigrated in 92 with 80% of my class as unemployment stood around 20%. Things started picking up 7 years after Mac the Knife.

    As long as you have many on the ground not interested in NI’s future and a load of middle-class Protestants and Catholics happy to suckle themselves fat on the public sector cash cow rather than face the harsh reality that NI too needs complete restructuring then nothing will change.

    For example, show me a party in Northern Ireland willing to admit there are around 120,000 public sectors workers too many on the payroll and I’ll show you the beginnings of a turnaround in the welfare of the area.

    But as long as the British government pays these people off on a waged basis to keep the peace, getting no wealth generation in return, there will be no change and, accordingly, there will be no serious bridging of the deprivation and infrastructure gap, never mind NI metamorphisising into a dynamic knowledge-based economy.

    How can you have a knowledge-based economy when, as now, less than 1% of West Belfast Protestants go on to third-level education?

    Retaining the subsidised economic status quo means these people will continue to live in deprivation for the forseeable future. No public sector payoffs for them, I’m afraid because they never were part of the status quo.

  • IJP

    Precisely George.

    Constitutional change could force NI to get real.

    As could gradual withdrawal of the subvention complete with water charges, rate hikes, tuition fees…

  • michael

    the ‘independant n ireland’ that that guy wrote out waaaay above with all the heading of economy, defence etc. sounds pretty much like a united ireland. harmonised tax, military etc.

    newho, just thinking. how can n ireland ever attract substantial investment? the south will ALWAYS out-do us! g’duh! surely the only way to have true economic growth is with economic integration with the south (which inevitably means political integration too!). Also, continued growth across the entire island will probably include further integration with britian.

    another thought if u will. We all know about the crazy inflation in the south which cant easily be fixed what with the euro thang. Surely the intro of a UI would slow growth in the short term, which really is all we need! hmmm, i dunno!

    also, on the whole constitutional issue. I ask all the nationalist out there. Whats your real problem, seperation of the island or being in the united kingdom. I know its the seperation for me as british oppression appears to be to be a thing of the past!

  • United Irelander

    Robert Keogh

    “I think people are so caught up in the tribes that the fact there are a 100K (and growing) population of immigrants that are neither Nationalist or Unionist. They will be the swing vote in any border poll and whomever courts them will win the day.”

    What are your thoughts on the immigrants eligible to vote in the South who would be unlikely to want to risk the economic prosperity of the South on a political issue they know little to nothing about?